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Utah Declares Pornography a ‘Health-Care Crisis’

The state of Utah has declared pornography a "public health crisis" because of its easy availability through digital media. (iStock)
The state of Utah has declared pornography a "public health crisis" because of its easy availability through digital media. (iStock)
April 21, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY - Governor Gary Herbert declared pornography a public health crisis and signed a state Senate resolution that calls for education, prevention, research and policy changes to combat the effects of pornography, but makes no specific proposals.

However, civil libertarians say it will be very difficult to prevent people from viewing it on the internet or elsewhere without running afoul of the First Amendment.

Andrew McCullough, a Salt Lake City attorney and lobbyist for the adult-entertainment industry, said legislating morality can be a slippery legal slope.

"There are a number of public health crises out there, and if we gear up and fight each one through the legislative process, it's not only going to be horribly expensive and horribly complicated but horribly oppressive," he said.

The resolution was sponsored by Republican state Senator Todd Weiler of Woods Cross, who said he is not only concerned about children's access to online porn but the number of people who are becoming addicted to watching it. There was no opposition to the resolution in the Legislature.

McCullough, who is a Libertarian Party candidate for Utah attorney general, said past efforts to block porn have run afoul of the First Amendment, spawning expensive legal challenges. He added that while no specific solutions have been put forth in Utah, any proposal will likely involve the government telling people what they can and cannot watch.

"The United Kingdom has been experimenting with an opt-in system, that you are blocked from pornographic stuff on the internet unless you specifically opt in," he added. "And they were quoting that with some approval, and, of course, that kind of makes me cringe."

McCullough cited a 2009 study by a Harvard professor that named Utah the largest consumer of online pornography, saying it points up the hypocrisy of the resolution. However, some of the resolution's backers pointed to the same survey as evidence that action needs to be taken.

The full bill be read here.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT