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Making Pornographers Pay

New bill would compensate victims of crimes directly linked to pornographic material

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A BILL designed to compensate victims of pornography, dubbed "the Bundy Bill" for the serial killer who blamed pornography for making him act out what he'd seen, is kicking up a fierce controversy.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky, is called the Pornography Victims' Compensation Act. It was written to provide a "cause of action" for victims of sexual abuse, rape, and murder against producers, distributors, and sellers of hard-core pornographic material. Publishers are also included as targets in the bill.

"My guess is that these kinds of assaults would carry prohibitive money damages," says Senator McConnell. "I make no bones about it. I think what this is designed to do ... may discourage some people from peddling this kind of material for fear they might have a significant lawsuit." The bill calls for a civil lawsuit if the victim can prove the material was a substantial cause of the crime.

Concerns about of pornography have been responsible for bills in Massachusetts, where victims-of-pornography legislation is proposed; in Jacksonville, Fla., where a woman welder was found to have been harassed by male workers with abusive and pornographic posters (the case is now on appeal), and in Canada, where the Canadian Supreme Court has decided that pornography can cause violence against women. The United States Senate Judiciary Committee is now considering the McConnell bill and its revisions.

The bill's critics say it tampers with the First Amendment. But standing behind the bill are conservative Republicans, feminist anti-pornography groups, and groups that focus on family values.

Even the National Organization for Women is divided; 200 local chapters support it, but the California and New York chapters oppose it on the grounds of censorship. Formidable opposition

Eighteen business and professional organizations representing the film, publishing, recording, and cable TV industries have joined to prepare a legal analysis of its constitutionality.

Senator McConnell says, "Believe it or not, I'm a very strong believer in the First Amendment and I don't like some of the criticism that's been leveled against me that I somehow want to be the nation's censor.

For McConnell, this is a long-standing issue that goes back to his work as a county executive in Kentucky, when, he says, "We set up the first missing and exploited child unit in the country."

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