A proposed resolution in Florida would declare pornography a public health risk, allowing for greater education and research into the hazards of porn, especially among developing children and teens.
“It’s trying to raise agreement and awareness as to [pornography’s] risks,” said Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“I don’t think the risks are limited to children alone, but there is a focus in the resolution on it,” he told CNA.
Sponsored by Republican Rep. Ross Spano, the resolution passed 18-1 on Jan. 18 in the House Health and Human Services Committee. On Tuesday, Feb. 13, it will be considered in the House Commerce Committee before it is sent to the full House of Representatives sometime before March 9.
A similar piece of legislation has also been sent to the Senate, but has not been read in committee. However, Sheedy said, the House resolution does not require approval from the Senate or governor to pass.
Spano originally sought to label pornography as a “health crisis,” but changed the words to “health risk” to increase support, according to Orlando Sentinel.
Speaking before the Health and Human Service Committee, Spano outlined studies showing that pornography use risks damaging relationships and human development.
“Research has found a correlation between pornography use and mental and physical illnesses, difficulty forming and maintaining intimate relationships, unhealthy brain development and cognitive function, and deviant, problematic or dangerous sexual behavior,” he said.
This resolution would not ban pornography or create legal consequences for its use or distribution.
However, Sheedy said it would be the first step in paving the way for more research and education on pornography’s hazardous effects, especially among children and teens.
“It’s a recognition that children are especially at risk given changes in technology — having more access to pornography than ever before — and the effects on their development and their sexuality. “
The resolution says that “a child who views pornography is at a higher risk of developing low self-esteem, an eating disorder, and a desire to engage in risky sexual behavior.”
A website called People Not Porn — endorsed by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops — has been created to raise awareness of the resolution and to educate the public on the dangers of pornography.
The website states that 27 percent of people ages 25-30 have admitted to seeing pornography before they hit puberty. Additionally, 64 percent of 13-24 year-olds will actively seek out porn once per week or more.
If Florida succeeds in passing a resolution acknowledging the risks of pornography, it will not be first state to do so. Since 2016, Tennessee, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Utah have all declared pornography a public health crisis. Virginia has labeled pornography as harmful to the public.