Arizona Wants to Declare Pornography a Public Health Crisis
Citing concerns about the “toxic” effect of erotic images and videos online on human behavior, Arizona lawmakers are pushing to declare pornography a “public health crisis” in the state.
The House resolution introduced by Republican state Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, claims pornography “perpetuates a sexually toxic environment that damages all areas of our society” and denounces it as a “crisis leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts.”
The measure calls on the Arizona Legislature to denounce porn and says the state must prevent exposure and addiction to it, educate people about its harms and develop recovery programs in order to counteract its negative impacts.
According to the HCR 2009 – which is largely symbolic and has no legal effect – excessive porn consumption can trigger extreme or violent sexual behaviour and outlines what Udall describes as the “detrimental effects” of increasing pornography viewership:
· Children are being exposed to porn “at an alarming rate” given its widespread availability on the internet, “leading to low self-esteem, eating disorders and an increase in problematic sexual activity at ever-younger ages.”
· It “normalizes violence and the abuse of women and children by treating them as objects, increasing the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution and child porn.”
· “Pornography has an adverse effect on the family as it is correlated with decreased desire in young men to marry, dissatisfaction in marriage and infidelity.”
“The societal damage of pornography is beyond the capability of the individual to address alone,” the resolution reads.
“Like the tobacco industry, the pornography industry has created a public health crisis,” Ms. Udall told lawmakers. “Pornography is used pervasively, even by minors.”
The bill passed through the Arizona House Committee of Health & Human Services on Thursday, the first major obstacle in its path to a possible full vote, AZ Central reported.
Similar bills declaring porn a public health crisis are being introduced in at least eleven states, using similar text from model legislation written by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. A similar porn-related draft law, House Bill 2444, would tax porn use to pay for the border wall.
The measure draws attention to research that has shown pornography is biologically addictive and can lead to extreme and violent sexual behaviors, as well as interest in child pornography.
Some studies document negative effects on relationships and addictive behavior, whereas other researchers say there isn’t evidence to show porn is addictive in the same way as alcohol or tobacco, though the perception of addiction can lead to psychological distress.
Udall’s opponents agree that too much porn is bad for humans; however, they question what the measure would do to address those problems given it’s non-binding and wouldn’t impose any new regulations.
“If we really want to look at this, we should start with education. It’s embarrassing that we are one of the states that does not have medically accurate sex education. In testimony, they were trying to blame everything on pornography. That is a stretch,” said Democrat Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, who is sponsoring a different bill, HB2577, that focuses on medically accurate sex education.
“I don’t disagree that the bill needs more teeth,” said Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, who ultimately voted for the bill, according to the Arizona Republic. “That is our goal.”
“There are statements in here that seem hyperbolic and unproven,” said Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley. “I just don’t think there’s necessarily the science to back up those claims.”
Committee Chairwoman Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, cut off debate on that topic, calling it a “peripheral discussion that we don’t want to get into at this time.”
Bill supporters said the issue – unlike the morals-driven debate of decades past – has become a health crisis due to its availability online. Dan Oakes, a Mesa-based therapist who treats porn addiction, testified that the bill might also “open the door” to new laws.
The measure now faces a vote in the full House, where Republicans have a narrow majority. If it passes there, it must also be approved by the Senate. Resolutions don’t require approval of the governor.