Feb. 14, 2018

By Better Wyoming staff

Seven men who serve in the Wyoming House of Representatives want the state to declare pornography a “public health crisis.”

But their proposed bill doesn’t really do anything besides make a declaration. There’s no call for action, no prescriptive measures. It just makes vague claims over and over and over.

It seems a bit … dare we say: masturbatory.

Cookie-cutter think tank bills

House Joint Resolution 1, “drafted” by Rep. Lars Lone (R-Cheyenne), states that porn leads to “a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.” It resolves that Wyoming “recognizes the need for education, prevention, research and policy change at the community and societal level to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of our state and nation.”

We put “drafted” in quotes because Lone didn’t actually draft anything. His porno resolution is essentially identical to another one that was introduced recently in Florida. A nearly identical measure was passed in Kansas last month, and Utah passed one last year.

This is the hallmark of legislation written by a national think tank and distributed to state lawmakers across America who struggle to think for themselves. Lone definitely fits into this category.

Last year, Lone introduced two cookie-cutter bills passed out by right-wing think tanks: one to make voters show IDs at the polls and another to effectively ban transgender people from using the public bathroom. Mercifully, both failed.

This session, Lone is also sponsoring a bill to ban gay marriage. We’re sure he came up with that one all by himself.

Arousing people … to the dangers of porn

Rep. Mark Jennings (R-Sheridan), one of the co-sponsors of the porno madness resolution, told the Sheridan Press that it’s kind of like a “starter bill” to rile people up so they know how pornography harms people.

He wants people to become aroused … to the dangers of pornography.

When the populace is sufficiently stimulated, Jennings explained, “The end result will be that, at a point that we think there’s enough recognition of the issue that we can run some tougher laws on child pornography and human sex trafficking.”

Of course, the universally recognized damage created by child pornography and sex trafficking is precisely why we’ve already passed laws making them explicitly illegal. It’s also hard to imagine that lawmakers wouldn’t broadly support tougher laws to stop child pornography and sex trafficking if they were brought today before the Legislature, without the porno primer.

Meanwhile, HJ1 doesn’t do anything to actually decrease the amount of child pornography or sex trafficking in Wyoming or the world. It doesn’t do anything, in fact.

It seems mainly like a means by which its sponsors can sit back and stroke their own … morally superior egos.

Junk science

The bulk of HJ1 consists of statements like: “Pornography equates violence towards women and children with sex, and equates pain with pleasure, which increases child sexual abuse and child pornography and the demand for sex trafficking and prostitution.”

Its laundry list of porno harms range from broad to weirdly specific. Pornography, the resolution contends: leads to low self-image and body image disorders; perpetuates “a sexually toxic environment;” decreases desire in young men to marry; and detrimentally affects the family unit.

The problem with these claims is that they’re not true—or, there’s nothing to indicate they are, at least.

David Hill, a doctor with the American Academy of Pediatrics, said that no study has convincingly linked pornography to public health problems.

“The conclusions we can draw from the science are very limited,” he told the Atlantic.

The so-called “studies” that Utah and Kansas lawmakers used to help pass their resolutions have been debunked.

In Utah’s case, the “study” was actually just a review of literature about pornography and came to no conclusions. In Kansas’ case, one “study” referenced by lawmakers was actually an online survey funded by an evangelical Christian church.

Wyoming has real public health problems

The chances of this porno madness resolution passing are slim. But you never know.

We do know, however, that Wyoming has a cornucopia of actual public health problems that lawmakers aren’t addressing, and whose solutions aren’t going to come from any right-wing think tank.

In fact, state lawmakers are actively making a number of Wyoming’s health problems worse by continuing to defund the state Department of Health. The Legislature has cut more than $100 million from the agency over the past two years, eliminating or drastically reducing programs from elder care to maternity care to rural medicine.

The Bipartisan Policy Center recently found that Wyoming only has 65 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents, compared to a national average of 84. When you look at specialists, the situation is even worse. We also lack basic broadband infrastructure necessary for telemedicine.

Wyoming has a hard time attracting and retaining medical professionals. Perhaps this wouldn’t be the case if fewer Wyoming lawmakers spent their time proposing bogus resolutions based on fake science and instead took steps to develop Wyoming into a more forward-looking state.

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