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THE LAST WORD : Rep. Banks joins colleagues in beseeching attorney general to enforce obscenity laws

Kerry Hubartt

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, has boldly voiced his concerns to the United States attorney general about something I and many others consider a grave problem in our nation: He is calling on Attorney General William Barr to prosecute obscenity laws already on the books, and make it a criminal justice priority.

In his weekly email last week Rep. Banks explained that “As the father of three young children, I’m increasingly worried about the country they are inheriting. While we live in an unprecedented era of convenience, there is a dark side – very dark. Anyone connected to the internet – including children – has on-demand access to billions of photos and videos of people having sex or committing other lewd acts.”

So Banks and three colleagues in Congress sent a letter to Barr. The letter, signed by Banks, Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) and Brian Babin (R-Texas), states, “The internet and other evolving technologies are fueling the explosion of obscene pornography by making it more accessible and visceral. The explosion in pornography coincides with an increase in violence toward women and an increase in the volume of human trafficking as well as child pornography. Victims are not limited to those directly exploited, however, and include society writ large. This phenomenon is especially harmful to youth, who are being exposed to obscene pornography at exponentially younger ages.”

Banks’ email stated that, if enforced, existing federal obscenity laws (“that effectively stopped during the Obama presidency”) can help solve this national problem.

“Those laws,” he wrote, “prohibit distribution of obscene pornography in places we frequent every day: the internet, on cable/satellite TV, in hotels/motels, by retail or wholesale establishments, and by common carrier.”

Banks also points out in the letter to Barr that in 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump signed the first-ever anti-pornography pledge, stating that if elected president, he “would enforce federal obscenity laws to stop the explosion of obscene pornography. This pledge has so far been ignored in the Trump administration, with the result that the harms of illegal pornography have continued unabated, affecting children and adults so acutely to the point that 15 state legislatures have declared that pornography is causing a public health crisis. It is imperative that you follow through on this important campaign promise made by Mr. Trump.”

Indiana, as other states, has its own obscenity statutes that regulate the proliferation of porn. But we believe the enforcement of laws federally can help bolster those efforts statewide.

Statistics support Banks’ declaration that production and consumption of online porn has exploded over the past two decades.

According to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, a study of university students found that 93 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls had seen internet pornography during adolescence. Another sample has shown that among college males, nearly 49 percent first encountered pornography before age 13. A nationally representative survey found that 64 percent of young people, ages 13-24, actively seek out pornography weekly or more often.

Is it any wonder that Banks is concerned about his three children being exposed to pornography or that I would share the same concern for my grandchildren?

“Our children are being exposed, often accidentally, and are struggling with porn addiction,” Banks wrote in his email. “This is beyond outrageous. It is evil.”

The NCSE states that recent, peer-reviewed research literature, as well as the latest reports and surveys, “present evidence supporting the view that pornography constitutes a public health crisis. … the converging evidence overwhelmingly suggests that pornography is correlated with a wide range of harms.”

The increase in online obscenity consumption, says Banks, has reaped a reciprocal increase in violence toward women, the overall volume of sex trafficking, child porn production and many other illicit enterprises.

A column I wrote about this topic in 2017 began, “The unbridled proliferation of sexual stimulation in our time is a cancer that has been eating away the foundations of our society. From sexually transmitted diseases to teenage pregnancies to adultery, pornography, sexual abuse and human trafficking, the end results throughout our country are evidenced in the rubble of ruined lives and broken marriages and families.”

Thank you, Congressman Banks, for helping attempt to jump start the stalled legal engine that can enforce the laws helping to protect our children.

Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.

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