Utah became the first US state to declare pornography a public health crisis in a unanimous vote by the state legislature on Tuesday.
Governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution that declared porn “a public health hazard.”
“There is an acute problem we think out there, a health crisis, not only psychologically, but also physiologically,” said Herbert.
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“We do not want to trample on people’s first amendment rights,” Herbert assured residents during the announcement. “We want them to have facts, data, good science, heightened awareness, so that they make a correct decision in their own lives.”
The governor suggested pornography had the same addictive qualities that come with drugs and alcohol.
“We also want our young people to know that there’s a particularly psychological and physiological detriment that comes from addiction to pornography,” he said.
The resolution document recognizes “the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the citizens of Utah and the nation.”
“When my resolution language went public last January, I was mocked and scorned on the media and even by some major publications,” said State Sen. Todd Weiler who sponsored the resolution.
The resolution does not commit any state spending, but will instead require parents to take an active role in speaking to their children about pornography, and urging communities to limit public access to porn in places that offer free internet.
“If a library or a McDonald’s or anyone else was giving out cigarettes to our children, we would be picketing them,” Weiler said. “And, yet, our children are accessing pornography on their tablets on these sites and we seem to be OK with that.”
“If adults want to do that, then that’s their choice,” said Weiler. “But, we’re talking about developing adolescent minds of our nation’s future. We can and must do better as a nation.”
A Washington D.C. based advocacy group hailed the resolution a victory for Americans against sexual exploitation.
“We commend Utah, the State of Utah, for recognizing the public health crisis from pornography,” Dawn Hawkins of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation told KSL in Salt Lake City.
“This is just adding to a growing movement to defend dignity. We’ve seen major corporations just recently change their policies that were facilitating exploitation in pornography.”