Issue 62, Summer 1996

A bill dramatically expanding the definition of child pornography is on a fast track in the U.S. Senate.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a June hearing on the legislation which, if passed, could affect a wide array of constitutionally protected expression and chill creative expression in every field — banning snapshots of babies in bathtubs and classical drawings, paintings, and sculptures, for starters.

Sponsored by Orrin Hatch, the bill, S. 1237, the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1995, would criminalize sexual pictures of adults who look like minors; depictions of fictional minors; and “lascivious” depictions of breasts of female minors and buttocks of all minors.

This definition of child pornography is so broad that significant works of art, literature, education, and entertainment unrelated to the sexual exploitation of children could be seized and their creators — or anyone who receives or makes such material available to others — subject to fines and imprisonment.

Many free expression advocates are telling Judiciary Committee members that rather than preventing sexual abuse of children, this legislation would chill creativity, censor information about sexuality, and interfere with the free exchange of ideas as well as violate constitutional principles.