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Politics & Policy

Exclusive: U.S. Representatives Call On Barr to Prosecute Obscene Pornography

U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr during an event with the president in the Rose Garden of the White House, July 11, 2019 (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Four Republican representatives have sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr this morning, calling on the Department of Justice to enforce obscenity laws as a means of reducing hardcore pornography that meets the legal tests for obscenity, especially pornography involving children.

The letter — signed by Jim Banks of Indiana, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, and Brian Babin of Texas — was provided exclusively to National Review and reminds the Justice Department of Donald Trump’s promise as a presidential candidate to enforce obscenity laws against the porn industry.

“The Internet and other evolving technologies are fueling the explosion of obscene pornography by making it more accessible and visceral,” the representatives write. “This explosion in pornography coincides with an increase in violence towards women and an increase in the volume of human trafficking as well as child pornography.”

In a comment provided to National Review via email, Banks outlined what he sees as the chief harms from this increased exposure to pornography:

As online obscenity and pornography consumption have increased, so too has violence towards women. Overall volume of human trafficking has increased and is now the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world. Child pornography is on the rise as one of the fastest-growing online businesses with an annual revenue over $3 billion. The United States has nearly 50% of all commercialized child pornography websites. Pornography is ubiquitous in our culture and our children are being exposed at younger ages. Nine in every ten boys under the age of 18 have seen porn. Children are struggling with pornography addiction.

The representatives note in their letter that 15 state legislatures have declared pornography to be a public-health crisis, particularly due to its ubiquity and its effects on children. They also point out that Barr focused on prosecuting obscenity cases in the early 1990s, when he served as attorney general under President George H. W. Bush, and, as they put it, “dramatically decreased child pornography in America.”

But as the congressmen note, under President Obama’s administration, Attorney General Eric Holder disbanded the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force in the criminal division of the Justice Department, which had prioritized prosecuting obscenity cases. Now, these representatives urge Barr “to declare the prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority” and make it a defining issue of the Trump administration.

Here is the full letter from the representatives to Barr.

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