Arizona Senate Republicans voted Monday to denounce pornography as a public health crisis while Democrats argued doing so trivializes crises including measles, homelessness and the opioid epidemic.
HCR 2009, approved by the Senate on a 16-13 vote, asserts that pornography encourages violence against women, leads to infidelity and eating disorders and can be addictive.
Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said she supported the measure because pornography is an “epidemic.” It indirectly leads to violence against women and children, sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted children, she said.
“Pornography is rampant. It’s all over our phones and our internet,” she said. “The soul of America is sick in many ways, and it starts with what we put into our minds and into our hearts.”
The resolution passed the House on a nearly party-line vote in February, with all House Republicans and one Democrat, Phoenix Rep. Amish Shah, voting for it. In the Senate, Scottsdale Republican Michelle Ugenti-Rita joined Democrats in voting against the measure.
The legislation has no effect on the law and serves simply as a statement of the Legislature.
Sen. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, said denouncing pornography won’t make any real changes to how women are treated. All it does is allow lawmakers who voted for it to check a box saying they did something, she said.
“The real issue is not necessarily pornography,” Steele said. “The real issue is around violence against women and toxic masculinity.”
The declaration of a public health crisis should be limited to life-threatening issues like measles outbreaks in several states, Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai added. The AP reported Monday that 764 cases of measles have been diagnosed nationwide in 2019 — the highest number of reported cases since 1994.
Arizona confirmed on measles case in Pima County in March, and another possible Pima County case was reported Wednesday, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
“The public health crisis in the U.S. really needs to be centered right now on the measles epidemic that is striking our country and our state,” Peshlakai said. “We really need to focus on those types of things that are life-threatening and fatal.”
In addition to measles, the state could be declaring homelessness, opioid addiction or youth suicide public health crises before it turns to pornography, Sen. Lisa Otondo said.
“I think there are really a list of other issues that take precedence,” she said.