US

Arizona Senate Passes Bill Proclaiming Porn a ‘Public Health Crisis’

By Mimi Nguyen Ly

The Arizona State Senate passed a bill on May 6 that denounced pornography as a “public health crisis”—the same status that’s held by the opioid epidemic.

“Pornography is a crisis leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts,” the bill states (pdf). “Pornography perpetuates a sexually toxic environment that damages all areas of our society.”

The bill goes on to say that recent research “indicates that pornography is potentially biologically addictive and requires increasingly shocking material for the addiction to be satisfied. This has led to increasing themes of risky sexual behaviors, extreme degradation, violence, and child pornography.”

“Due to the advances in technology and the universal availability of the internet, children are being exposed to pornography at an alarming rate, leading to low self-esteem, eating disorders, and an increase in problematic sexual activity at ever-younger ages,” the bill reads.

It also said that pornography users face potential detrimental effects such as “toxic sexual behaviors, emotional, mental, and medical illnesses, and difficulty forming or maintaining intimate relationships.”

The Republican Senate-approved House Concurrent Resolution 2009 was voted 16-13, with one abstention. It was first passed in the Arizona House of Representatives on Feb. 25, at 32-28. The resolution was first read in the House on Feb. 5, and Rep. Michelle Udall (R-Mesa) was the primary sponsor.

“Like the tobacco industry, the pornography industry has created a public health crisis,” Udall told lawmakers, according to the Arizona Republic. “Pornography is used pervasively, even by minors.”

The resolution advised the state and the country to systematically prevent exposure and addiction to pornography and educate people about its harms, and develop pornography recovery programs.

Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) acknowledged that the resolution won’t explicitly outlaw pornography production or consumption.

However, she says the measure will have an impact “because it’s the first time we’re making a statement … about the epidemic of pornography,” according to the Arizona Republic.

“Billions of dollars worldwide are being made upon this industry that is poisoning the minds of our citizens,” Allen told the newspaper, adding that porn is “the root problem for many of the other problems that we’re experiencing.” She said that porn contributes to sexual activity at young ages, sexually transmitted diseases, and unplanned pregnancies.

“It has morphed into something … horrible,” she said.

Supporters say they hope it opens the door to new restrictions on porn.

Since 2016, 10 other states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, and Kansas, have declared pornography a public health crisis. The measures were based on model legislation (pdf) written by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. The group says porn is directly connected to other acts of exploitation.

But Arizona Democrats opposed the bill and said that it was distracting officials from more important public health issues.

“Oh, the things that Arizona Republicans choose to prioritize,” the Arizona Democratic Party tweeted on May 7.

“This bill, on its face, sounds like it might be a good idea, but it doesn’t have any teeth,” Sen. Victoria Steele (D-Tucson) said on the Senate floor, according to the Arizona Republic.

“It won’t result in any changes. It is a way for people to check off that box and make it look like they’ve done something.”

Minority Whip Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, a Democrat, told the Arizona Republic, “I think we really need to focus on those types of things that are life-threatening and fatal, and could spread so quickly to anybody.”