Porn a public health crisis in US, Arizona and other states agree

Arizona lawmakers last week approved a resolution calling for efforts to prevent children from being exposed to pornography online, a move similar to those of legislative bodies in at least 15 other states that are calling adult sexual content a public health crisis.

"It is an epidemic in our society, and this makes a statement that we have a problem," said Arizona state Sen. Sylvia Allen, a Republican whose chamber approved the resolution last Monday. She blamed pornography for contributing to a number of societal issues, such as violence against women, sexual activity among teens and unintended pregnancies.

The resolution is non-binding but could signal future action. Many of the resolutions put forward are based on a model written by anti-porn group the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

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Utah Gov. Gary Herbert looks up during a ceremonial signing of a state resolution declaring pornography a public health crisis, at the Statehouse in Salt Lake City, April 19, 2016. (Associated Press)

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert looks up during a ceremonial signing of a state resolution declaring pornography a public health crisis, at the Statehouse in Salt Lake City, April 19, 2016. (Associated Press)

Mark Kernes, a senior editor at the trade publication Adult Video News media network, called porn harmless entertainment meant for adults. He said linking sexual adult content with social problems is “complete fear-mongering.”

Others say the resolutions could create a risk for LGBTQ groups and leave out calls for better sex education for teenagers.

"If you stub your toe, that might be something you can't solve yourself, but that doesn't make it a public health issue," said Emily Rothman, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University.

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The Arizona legislation could possibly pave the way for future measures, such as blocking porn from the internet at publically funded places like schools and libraries.

“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," said Haley Halverson with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

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Other resolutions have passed in Republican-controlled states like Montana and Tennessee. Utah was the first state to pass an anti-porn resolution in 2016. Another law in that state lets parents sue porn makers if their children 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," said Utah GOP Rep. Todd Weiler.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.