A Growing Number of States Call Porn a Public Health Crisis

May 10, 2019 Updated: May 10, 2019

PHOENIX—More than a dozen states have moved to declare pornography a public health crisis.

The Arizona Senate approved a resolution this week calling for a systemic effort to prevent exposure to porn that’s increasingly accessible to younger kids online. At least one legislative chamber has adopted a similar resolution in 15 other states.

“It is an epidemic in our society, and this makes a statement that we have a problem,” said Arizona Sen. Sylvia Allen, a Republican who blamed pornography for contributing to violence against women, sexual activity among teens and unintended pregnancies.

The Arizona resolution that passed Monday doesn’t ban pornography or create any other legal changes, but it could signal future action. Similar declarations have been passed in GOP-controlled states ranging from Tennessee to Montana and been adopted in the Republican Party’s national platform.

Many of the resolutions are based on a model written by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, an anti-porn group that cites research linking it to a range of problems and argues that it’s become too ubiquitous for individuals to combat alone.

The legislation could pave the way for future steps, like keeping publicly funded internet at places like schools and libraries from being used to access porn, said Haley Halverson with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which is working on new model legislation for states taking those next steps.

“We think these resolutions are really powerful, although they’re non-binding, because they raise awareness and educate the public, and hopefully can lay the groundwork to make more resources available to those people who potentially struggle with pornography,” she said.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert looks up during a ceremonial signing of a state resolution declaring pornography a public health crisis, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City, on April 19, 2016. (Rick Bowmer/AP Photo)

Utah was the first state to pass an anti-porn resolution in 2016. In the years since, lawmakers have passed bills tightening up filters on wireless internet at public libraries and getting out information to parents about controls available at home, said Republican Rep. Todd Weiler, the effort’s sponsor.

Another new state law lets parents sue pornography makers if their kids need treatment for problems related to porn use.

“We’re trying to shed a light on an issue that some people don’t think it’s OK to talk about,” Weiler said.

By Lindsay Whitehurst And Jonathan J. Cooper

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