THE NEW HAMPSHIRE House is considering a bill, HB 201,that would impose harsher penalties for customers of underage prostitutes; that is, they want to get even tougher on men who buy sex from minors.

One would think that such a measure would receive undivided support, but such is not the case. As reported by this newspaper, an organization called Decriminalize Sex Work has popped up its ugly head in New Hampshire and hired state lobbyist and former Republican Senate Majority Leader, Bob Clegg, to try to kill the effort.

Rather than recommending the bill for passage, Mr. Clegg is attempting to convince the members of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee to create a study committee to consider fully legalizing prostitution in New Hampshire.

In one of the slimiest moves I’ve ever seen in politics, Clegg is making the argument that by legalizing prostitution, the state will actually be protecting and empowering women, the very victims of prostitution to begin with.

Prostitution is an inherently abusive, violent and exploitative practice. The legalization of prostitution means giving someone the legal right, through a financial transaction, to treat a woman as a sexual commodity.

It is stunning, frankly, in this age of exposing the ingrained patterns of sexual harassment and abuse toward women in nearly every walk of American life, that any serious legislative body would consider the legalization of one of the most violent and abusive practices on earth.

Those who would argue for its legalization are advancing an agenda of privilege and entitlement that suggests that men deserve, or have a right to women’s bodies — once bought and paid for, of course.

It is beyond sexist. It is dehumanizing.

Mr. Clegg, on behalf of Decriminalize Sex Work, would have you believe that prostitutes are just like everyone else: hard working folks who have chosen a profession by which to pay the bills, save for vacation, and maybe tuck away a few bucks for retirement.

You know, construction workers, state workers, sex workers — they’re all the same, just trying to make a living.

The gross ignorance of this argument is beyond dangerous.

Prostitutes rarely choose to become prostitutes and rarely have the choice to leave.

According to the Washington Times, on average, female prostitutes enter this line of “work” when they are only 16 or 17 years of age and typically have shorter lives because they are subject to abuse from both clients and pimps.

In 2013, the New York Times reported that the Justice Department estimates that 450,000 children run away from home every year and that one-third of teenagers on the street will be approached by a pimp within 48 hours of leaving home. About 40 percent of prostitutes are former child prostitutes who were forced into the trade.

There is nothing about legalizing prostitution that will improve or empower the lives of women. In fact, an argument could be made that by doing so, you would increase the demand for so-called sex workers and, by extension, potentially increase human trafficking as a result.

The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee meets tomorrow. Decent people across our state need to contact them today and tell them to pass HB 201 on to the full House for consideration as is, to protect minors from sexual predators.

Because if you don’t, the only voice they will hear is the vile and demeaning arguments of a lobbyist being paid to make it easier to victimize women everywhere.

Former state Republican Party chair Jennifer Horn is active in political and civic affairs.