CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

Utah Claims Porn Is a Public Health Hazard

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution this week declaring pornography a "public health hazard" and calling for more "education, prevention, research, and policy change ... to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of our state and nation." The non-binding resolution is a laundry list of harms allegedly created by the production and consumption of pornography, all of which have led to a "public health crisis."

But if the Utah resolution doesn't ban pornography, or even earmark state funds to combat it, what does it actually do? You can check it out below:

I'll Know It When I See It

Anti-porn advocates have fought for decades to ban pornography on moral or obscenity grounds, and thus far gotten nowhere. More recently, some have tried banning porn on civil rights grounds, with the same result. Similar attempts to limit online pornography met similar ends. Each time, courts found that attempted bans on porn unreasonably restricted free speech rights.

Some see Utah's resolution as an end around attempt to restrict pornography based on its effects, rather than its content. By declaring it a public health hazard, the resolution can focus public awareness and future legislation on "efforts to prevent pornography exposure and addiction, to educate individuals and families concerning its harms, and to develop recovery programs."

Harm, Foul

The resolution lists public harm supposedly wrought by the prevalence of pornography in today's society:

  • "pornography perpetuates a sexually toxic environment";
  • "exposure to pornography often serves as childrens' [sic] and youths' sex education and shapes their sexual templates";
  • "because pornography treats women as objects and commodities for the viewer's use, it teaches girls they are to be used and teaches boys to be users";
  • "pornography normalizes violence and abuse of women and children"; and
  • "potential detrimental effects on pornography's users can impact brain development and functioning, contribute to emotional and medical illnesses, shape deviant sexual arousal, and lead to difficulty in forming or maintaining intimate relationships, as well as problematic or harmful sexual behaviors and addiction".

Therefore, as the resolution resolves, "pornography is a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms," and the state of Utah has recognized a need to address it. You can read the resolution in full, below:

Utah Bill: S.C.R. 9 Concurrent Resolution on Public Health Crisis by FindLaw