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Growing number of states call porn a public health crisis

More than a dozen states have moved to declare pornography a public health crisis, raising concerns among some experts who say the label goes too far and carries its own risks.

The Arizona Senate approved a resolution this week calling for a systemic effort to prevent exposure to porn that’s increasingly accessible to younger kids online. At least one legislative chamber has adopted a similar resolution in 15 other states.

“It is an epidemic in our society, and this makes a statement that we have a problem,” said Arizona Sen. Sylvia Allen, a Republican who blamed pornography for contributing to violence against women, sexual activity among teens and unintended pregnancies.

The resolution that passed Monday doesn’t ban pornography or create any other legal changes, but it could signal future action. Similar declarations have been passed in GOP-controlled states ranging from Tennessee to Montana and been adopted in the Republican Party’s national platform.

Many of the resolutions are based on a model written by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, an anti-porn group that cites research linking it to a range of problems and argues that it’s become too ubiquitous for individuals to combat alone.

But others say the public-crisis label is a misguided approach.

Research has raised questions about the effect of explicit material on young kids, but links to other often-cited issues like human trafficking are much more tenuous, said Emily Rothman, a community health sciences professor at Boston University.

The resolutions risk creating a stigma for marginalized groups like LGBTQ people and miss a key piece of the puzzle by leaving out calls for more robust sex education for teenagers, she said.

And porn isn’t like a deadly virus, she said.

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