Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently made headlines after his controversial decision to veto a bill protecting child prostitutes. The Republican governor killed House Bill 1771, which would have prohibited prostituted minors from being arrested and sent to juvenile court, despite its overwhelming popularity in the Texas legislature.
Written by Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, HB 1771 would have amended the Texas penal code to bar children from the definition of prostitution. While law enforcement officials would still be able to detain minors they believed to be engaged in prostitution under the law, these children and teens would be returned to their parents or the Texas Department of Family Protective Services, rather than being arrested and sent to juvenile court. Thierry said she was shocked by Abbott’s decision, given her claims to have worked with the governor’s office all throughout the drafting of the bill. "We are really depriving them of their liberty," Thierry said, commenting on the veto. "They can’t even consent to sex."
Abbott, on the other hand, justified his decision by saying the bill would have actually kept more children in the cycle of prostitution, making it easier for those who exploit underage sex workers to keep them on the street. "The bill takes away options that law enforcement and prosecutors can use to separate victims from their traffickers," Abbott claimed. "And it may provide a perverse incentive for traffickers to use underage prostitutes, knowing they cannot be arrested for engaging in prostitution."
As Thierry pointed out, Abbott’s justification does not negate the fact that children who are victims of prostitution and trafficking remain at the mercy of the courts. "These are pedophiles that are having sex with children," Thierry stated. "And we are further victimizing the children and criminalizing them." Thierry has said that continuing her efforts to change the law will be her top priority when the legislature resumes next session.
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At MR Civil Justice, our mission is to pursue civil justice for anyone the system has used or abused. Whether we’re advocating for children or victims of prostitution or both, you can count on our Dallas personal injury attorneys to go above and beyond for our clients. We believe that everyone deserves their day in court, and we are here to offer that day to you.
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