As of Sept. 1 2021, it will be a felony in Texas to pay for sexual services of any sort. The bill, titled House Bill 1540, passed unanimously on Thursday and was signed into law by Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
Sandra Guerra Thompson, the director of the Criminal Justice Institute at the University of Houston Law School, summarized the rationale behind the new law.
"This law is a rethinking of the traditional supply side in prosecutions that tended to target the women who were involved in these activities and not the buyers. It's also coming from a growing awareness that oftentimes, those involved are from a vulnerable class," Thompson said, according to The Hill.
The law appears to be modeled on what has previously been dubbed the Nordic model, which was first implemented in Sweden. Under this model, sex workers are not criminally liable, but their customers are.
The debate continues to rage worldwide over what the legal status of sex work should be.
Kathleen Kim of Loyola Marymount University Law School strongly disagreed with the new Texas measure, saying, "Putting individual 'johns' in jail will do absolutely nothing for victims of trafficking."
"In fact, it harms them because evidence demonstrates that the more resources that go into law enforcement approach, the more that victims lose because resources that ought to be going towards things like victim benefits, social services support, and legal advocacy, is still unavailable and maybe even diminished because more resources are going toward a dominant criminal enforcement approach."
Other cities like New York have taken a more laissez-faire approach to sex work, effectively decriminalizing the act of paying for sex and selling it. This appears to have led to a large increase in prostitution-related activity in that city.