Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has vetoed a bill that would have prohibited people under the age of 18 from being arrested for prostitution, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The measure, which passed both chamber of the Legislature during the just completed session, would have rewritten the Texas Penal Code to indicate that people have to be 18 to be charged with prostitution. Sponsors said the proposal is based on the supposition that anybody who is working as a prostitute who is under age is being sexually trafficked, and as such is a victim.
"By the governor vetoing this, he is allowing law enforcemernt to still use that tool of arresting them to get them off the street, even if it criminalizes these young women," said Bob Sanborn, who heads the organization 'Children at Risk.'
In his veto message, Abbott said decriminalizing prostitution for people under 18 would make the problem worse.
"It may provide a perverse incentive for traffickers to use underage prostitutes, knowing they cannot be arrested for engaging in prostitution," Abbott said in his statement.
Supporters of the bill said the children are frequently raped by sex traffickers, and then are forced to work as prostitutes by men who threaten them and their families. Sanborn says that's his definition of a 'victim,' not a 'criminal.'
"Buyer needs to be one of the directions that we go in terms of law enforcement and ending human trafficking," he said.