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'What we are doing is sounding a voice of warning,' said Gov. Gary Herbert before signing the resolution. Medill DC, CC
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Utah declares porn a ‘public health crisis’ as governor signs resolution

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SALT LAKE CITY, April 19, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The state of Utah has become the first state in the nation to declare that pornography is creating a “public health crisis.”

Governor Gary Herbert signed a non-binding resolution, SCR 9, that recognizes porn can impact brain development, increase risky sexual behavior, and lead to sexual addiction.

“What we are doing is sounding a voice of warning,” said Gov. Herbert at a press conference just before the bill's signing at 10 a.m. local time. “There are real health risks that are involved with viewing pornography.”

The resolution's sponsor, State Senator Todd Weiler, joined numerous experts who said they have come to address porn, not as a moral issue, but as a public health threat.

“Numerous studies have now connected pornography use to lower mental health outcomes, lower relationship well-being, and detrimental expectations and beliefs about sex and sexual intimacy,” said Dr. Brian Willoughby, a professor of family life at Brigham Young University.

His own research linked early exposure to pornography to “an increased probability of addictive and compulsive behaviors developing in adulthood.”

One study showed girls who watched porn were five times more likely to engage in group sex than those who do not.

Brain scans have shown that viewing pornography stimulates the brain's reward circuitry in the same way as alcohol and addictive drugs, by releasing dopamine. Over time this can result in hypofrontality, a shrinking of the brain's prefrontal cortex that leads to diminished impulse control.

Compulsive pornographic intake has been associated with erectile dysfunction.

But the viewer is not the only one who suffers.

Dr. Jennifer Brown, who is on the board of the Utah Coalition Against Pornography, said pornography “fuels heinous crimes such as sexual abuse, sexual assault, and human trafficking.”

A study last December found that porn viewers are more likely to rape, sexually harass, or physically or verbally intimidate another person in order to “obtain sex.”

Another study found that those who watch pornography are less concerned about sexual trafficking than those who do not.

Dawn Hawkins of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) mentioned porn as part of a “seamless” connection of all forms of sexual violence, which should be seen as a “continuum.”

Dr. Mary Anne Layden, a psychologist and director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania, told LifeSiteNews that there is no “bright line of demarcation” separating child abuse, sexual trafficking, and pornography; all reinforce one another.

“The average age of becoming a child prostitute in the U.S. is 12,” she said. “We call them a child prostitute until the day after their 18th birthday, and then we say it’s adult consenting sex.” Pornography is often the next step, yielding greater financial rewards for the same service, which is often rooted in reliving childhood trauma. 

To underscore that connection, Gov. Herbert signed a second bill, which instructs computer technicians to report any child pornography they find in the course of their work. Failure to do so is now a Class B misdemeanor.

“Utah is on the cutting edge of addressing the public health crisis of pornography,” Hawkins said. “The harms of pornography are becoming clear in light of overwhelming scientific and social research – research which demonstrates that resolutions like the one in Utah are vital for the sexual health of future generations.”

In sparking this public debate, Utah is following in the steps of the UK, which has had a public discussion of the harms of pornography, in part after discovering that porn consumption had turned thousands of children into underage sexual predators.

The panel suggested making web surfers opt-in to view pornography, rather than opt-out to avoid it, as one quick fix to keep hardcore images away from minors. Sen. Weiler even asked the pornographic industry for assistance at one point.

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch praised the governor for moving the discussion forward, tweeting: 

Although the porn industry is entrenched – nearly one-third of all Internet traffic is porn-related – the speakers were hopeful that “this bill is just the beginning.”

The resolution allocates no funds and requires no action, but Sen. Weiler hopes that it will lead to greater research on the effect pornographic material has on unemancipated minors, as well as adults.

“I believe pornography will follow the trend of the tobacco industry in public perception,” Hawkins said. “Pornography today is pervasive and popular, similar to smoking in the 1950s, but as the harms become apparent, both the general public and elected officials will demand that a multi-disciplinary public health approach be implemented across the country to address it.”

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