March 2, 2012 — New York Assembly member Barbara Clark (D) and state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D) are sponsoring a bill (S 323) that would bar possession of condoms as evidence of sex work in criminal cases, the New York Times reports. Similar measures have been introduced annually since 1999 but have not passed out of committee.
"Now there's more support," Sienna Baskin, co-director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, said, noting that the New York Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Public Health Association of New York City have compiled research to submit to lawmakers.
Prosecutors said they should be able to use condoms as evidence in trials. "Prosecutors in my office assess evidence on a case-by-case basis, determining what is appropriate in each situation," Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said.
Yvette Gonzales of the Positive Health Project said police often confiscate condoms when arresting sex workers. When sex workers are released from police custody, they often start working again but avoid using or carrying condoms out of fear of being arrested, according to Gonzales. The Sex Workers Project surveyed 35 sex workers and found that 16 did not carry condoms at times because of fear of encounters with the police. Fifteen said condoms had been destroyed or taken by police officers and three of those 15 said they had engaged in sex afterward without protection (Farmer, New York Times, 2/29).
Repro Health Watch — an exciting new edition of the Women’s Health Policy Report — compiles and distributes media coverage of proposed and enacted state laws and ballot initiatives affecting women's access to comprehensive reproductive health care, as well as litigation in response to those provisions.