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Angiulo: Comparing Legalized Prostitution in Canada versus America

Monday, December 23, 2013

 

This week I learned that prostitution is legal in Canada. I swear I didn't know this until December 20th when the Canadian Supreme Court ruling of the Attorney General of Canada v. Terri Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovich and Valerie Scott showed up in my twitter feed. Since this week's column already runs the risk of appearing in work inappropriate search engine results, I want to make it clear that I have no intention of dwelling on the bawdy side of this issue.

Instead, I suggest that this case shows how our two countries have similar constitutional provisions that get applied in similar ways for very different purposes because of a simple truth: a healthy democracy does not create second class citizens.

As a starting point I think we can agree that sexual conduct for a fee is, for the most part, illegal in the United States. This is an important distinction between the legal and social traditions in our Country from those in Canada. As the Canadian Supreme Court outlined in AG v. Bedford it's simply not illegal to engage in prostitution. It is, however, illegal to do things likeadvertise these services,share profits with prostitutes, and either be in or run what we would commonly call a brothel.

Both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution as well as Article 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms all talk about the same things: individual rights to life, liberty and protection under the law. Interestingly, the case of AG v. Bedford is a case where prostitutes claimed they have a right to equal protection from unreasonable restrictions and that the application of the above described laws is unfair. Those in the business of prostituting successfully argued that the restrictions, rather than encouraging good moral order, are in fact endangering their health, safety and welfare. Essentially they state that the existing legal structure permits their behavior, but endangers their lives because they can't have people legally acting as business agents, security teams or even have support staff like accountants.

Arguments for Equal Protection under the law have a well respected tradition in the United States. One of our most famous cases, like so famous that it shows up in Fifth Grade History books, is Brown v. Board of Education where the United States Supreme Court ruled racially segregated school systems were unconstitutional. The underlying principle is that there should be no aspect of our laws or government that creates second class citizens evens if some social pressure places a particular group people in an unpopular caste.

On the face of it, the Canadian case of AG v. Bedford appears to be all about legal sex and a morality issue that we as United States Citizens could never understand. In reality, the legal issue presented is much more approachable. This case is just about a group of people, engaging in a legal business, who want the same protections that other people get. Even though they are very unpopular in some social circles.


Related Slideshow:
New England’s Healthiest States 2013

The United Health Foundation recently released its 2013 annual reoprt: America's Health Rankings, which provides a comparative state by state analysis of several health measures to provide a comprehensive perspective of our nation's health issues. See how the New England states rank in the slides below.

 

Definitions

All Outcomes Rank: Outcomes represent what has already occurred, either through death, disease or missed days due to illness. In America's Health Rankings, outcomes include prevalence of diabetes, number of poor mental or physical health days in last 30 days, health disparity, infant mortality rate, cardiovascular death rate, cancer death rate and premature death. Outcomes account for 25% of the final ranking.

Determinants Rank: Determinants represent those actions that can affect the future health of the population. For clarity, determinants are divided into four groups: Behaviors, Community and Environment, Public and Health Policies, and Clinical Care. These four groups of measures influence the health outcomes of the population in a state, and improving these inputs will improve outcomes over time. Most measures are actually a combination of activities in all four groups. 

Diabetes Rank: Based on percent of adults who responded yes to the question "Have you ever been told by a doctor that you have diabetes?" Does not include pre-diabetes or diabetes during pregnancy.

Smoking Rank: Based on percentage of adults who are current smokers (self-report smoking at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and currently smoke).

Obesity Rank: Based on percentage of adults who are obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher.

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/

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6. Rhode Island

Overall Rank: 19

Outcomes Rank: 30

Determinants Rank: 13

Diabetes Rank: 26

Smoking Rank: 14

Obesity Rank: 13

 

Strengths:

1. Low prevalence of obesity

2. High immunization coverage among adolescents

3. Ready availability of primary care physicians  

Challenges:

1.High rate of drug deaths

2. High rate of preventable hospitalizations

3. Large disparity in heath status by educational attainment

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/RI

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5. Maine

Overall Rank: 16

Outcomes Rank: 25

Determinants Rank: 12

Diabetes Rank: 23

Smoking Rank: 29

Obesity Rank: 28

 

Strengths:

1. Low violent crime rate

2. Low percentage of uninsured population

3. Low prevalence of low birthweight  

Challenges:

1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2.High rate of cancer deaths

3. Limited availability of dentists

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/ME

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4. Connecticut

Overall Rank: 7

Outcomes Rank: 15

Determinants Rank: 4

Diabetes Rank: 16

Smoking Rank: 4

Obesity Rank: 12

 

Strengths:

1. Low prevalence of smoking

2. Low incidence of infectious diseases

3. High immunization coverage among children & adolescents  

Challenges:

1. Moderate prevalence of binge drinking

2. Low high school graduation rate

3. Large disparity in health status by educational attainment

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/CT

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3. New Hampshire

Overall Rank: 5

Outcomes Rank: 7

Determinants Rank: 5

Diabetes Rank: 16

Smoking Rank: 11

Obesity Rank: 22

 

Strengths:

1. Low percentage of children in poverty

2. High immunization coverage among children

3. Low infant mortality rate  

Challenges:

1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2.High incidence of pertussis infections

3. Low per capita public health funding

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/NH

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2. Massachusetts

Overall Rank: 4

Outcomes Rank: 14

Determinants Rank: 3

Diabetes Rank: 10

Smoking Rank: 7

Obesity Rank: 2

 

Strengths:

1. Low prevalence of obesity

2. Low percentage of uninsured population

3. Ready availability of primary care physicians & dentists  

Challenges:

1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2. High rate of preventable hospitalizations

3. Large disparity in health status by educational attainment

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/MA

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1. Vermont

Overall Rank: 2

Outcomes Rank: 12

Determinants Rank: 1

Diabetes Rank: 4

Smoking Rank: 9

Obesity Rank: 5

 

Strengths:

1. High rate of high school graduation

2. Low violent crime rate

3. Low percentage of uninsured population  

Challenges:

1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2. Low immunization coverage among children

3. High incidence of pertussis infections

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/VT

 
 

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Comments:

Wuggly Ump

We are a Republic, let's not forget that.

As for prostitution, as long as it's between consenting adults, I don't think it's any business of anyone else's, including Government.




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