Child Porn Bill DOA

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S151, “The Protect Act,” which includes Congress’ attempt to ban “virtual,” or computer-generated, child pornography, passed the Senate last Thursday and has been sent to President George W. Bush for his signature. Once signed, the bill would go into effect on January 1, 2004. However, according to anti-pornography advocates, that’s not necessarily a good thing because of the bill’s flaws.

The Protect Act is a comprehensive child safety bill with some good provisions to strengthen sex offender laws, sexual trafficking, sex crimes against children, for national coordination of the “Amber Alert” system, sentencing reforms for sexual abuse crimes, and a host of others.

The bill also amends child pornography laws in an attempt to respond to the Supreme Court ruling last year that legalized “virtual child porn.” It aims to criminalize “a computer image, computer-generated image, or digital image that is of, or is virtually indistinguishable from that of, an actual minor.”

“It also provides an affirmative defense that in effect legalizes virtual child porn–which makes no sense at all,” said Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America. (An “affirmative defense” is a way for those charged with breaking the law to get around it.)

“The Conference Committee report states, ‘With this new affirmative defense, an accused can completely escape liability by showing that the sexually explicit depictions in question were produced without using any actual minors.’ It couldn’t be more obvious. This does not prohibit virtual child porn,” LaRue concluded.

LaRue is not optimistic about the law’s prospects. “The porn industry will file a suit challenging the law before it goes into effect,” she says.

In the U.S. Senate, support for the law was overwhelming: 98 senators voted in favor. The two who didn’t vote at all are Sens. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) and John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), who both have declared their candidacy for the presidency in 2004.

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