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CMDA Responds to D.C. City Council Proposed Bill to Decriminalize Prostitution

Washington, D.C., November 19, 2019- Earlier this month, the Washington, D.C. chapter of Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) and CMDA’s Commission on Human Trafficking achieved victory in their response to the D.C. City Council’s proposed bill to decriminalize prostitution in the nation’s capital.


The bill, cited as The Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019, sought to improve community safety and health by removing criminal penalties for individuals 18 years of age and older who engaged in sex work voluntarily, without force or coercion.


The Washington, D.C. chapter of CMDA contacted D.C. City Council members with pragmatic and biblical responses in their concerns on why the bill should not be passed—largely that its passage would make D.C. a magnet for sex traffickers to prey upon and exploit the vulnerable, and it would result in undue public health issues, violence, trauma, other harms and the degradation of mostly women and children.  On November 8, 2019, CMDA’s Commission on Human Trafficking submitted a letter to D.C. City Council members stating the aforementioned harms and that the “bill will undo the enormous efforts to raise awareness across the United States of the many harms that occur within prostitution and other forms of commercial sex.” It was learned on that same day while the proposed bill was in committee that it did not receive sufficient votes to move forward. According to an article from the Washington Post on November 16, lawmakers said the bill will not move forward this year.


“The Washington D.C. City Council demonstrated wisdom by not moving forward with The Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019, thereby preventing the exposure of innumerable women and girls to the inevitable increased sexual exploitation that would have resulted if this legislation had passed into law,” said Chair of the CMDA Commission on Human Trafficking Jeffrey J. Barrows, DO, MA.


On October 17, 2019, the D.C. City Council Public Safety Committee received public testimony on the controversial bill from members of more than 100 groups, citizens and former prostitutes who strongly opposed the bill. Public comments were accepted through November 1.


Washington, D.C. would not be the first to attempt to decriminalize prostitution, as Nevada has legalized prostitution in 20 counties, where increased violence and harms are now well documented. Also well documented is increased trafficking in regions of the world were prostitution has been legalized.1,2,3

“We are pleased with this outcome,” said CMDA CEO Mike Chupp, MD, FACS. “We remain prayerful and ready to deliver a response to these and other issues as transformed doctors, transforming our nation’s capital and greater Washington, D.C. area, through faith and healthcare.”

1 Cho S, d. A. (2013). Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking? World Development, 41, 67-82.

2 Roxburgh A, D. L. (2006). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Female Street Based Sex Workers in the Greater Sydney Area, Australia. BMC Psychiatry, 6, 24-36.

3 Forrey, C. (2014). America's Disneyland of Sex- Exploring the Problem of Sex Trafficking in Las Vegas and Nevada's Response. Nevada Law Journal, 14:3.


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