SALT LAKE CITY — A parent intentionally exposing a child to pornography could soon be used as a factor in determining child custody.
A Senate committee voted unanimously Wednesday to send SB227 to the Senate floor.
"If you are intentionally exposing your children to pornography and your parental rights or your custody rights, in terms of primary custody, are being questioned, that's one factor that may be used against you," said bill sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.
Weiler said he's been working on the legally "thorny" issue for a couple of years because he's disgusted that this type of child exposure to pornography happens.
"There are cases in Utah — and I’m saddened and embarrassed to report this to you — where a father will sit down with a young boy and say, 'You’ve got to watch this to be a man,' and they’re showing them pornographic videos," Weiler said.
In response to a request from Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, to use the word "recklessly" instead of "intentionally," Weiler said he worried the change would kill the bill and was focused on getting a foot in the door first.
"I hate to be put in the position of defending pornography because I think it’s a vile part of our society that affects a lot of people and entraps a lot of people, but pornography is legal in the United States for adults," Weiler said.
The science of pornography viewing was explained by Jennifer Brown of Bountiful. Brown wrote a thesis called "The Physiological Effects of Innocent Exposure to Soft-core Pornography on the Developing Brain." She said children must be protected.
"You don’t need hard-core pornography to have a profound effect on an adolescent brain," Brown said.
She said less provocative images have more of an impact on teenagers than adults because adolescent dopamine systems are in overdrive.
"Unless the child is protected, they are so traumatized by (pornography) that it is very hard for them to lead a normal life," said Pamela Atkinson, chairwoman of Utah Coalition Against Pornography.