Remarks on Signing the Child Protection Act of 1984

May 21, 1984

Ladies and gentlemen, my remarks here will be brief, because the issue this bill deals with is so clear that it requires little elaboration. Please, sit down. [Laughter] You can see how much of -- in a hurry I am to -- [laughing] -- finish the remarks and get to the task.

I'm about to sign the Child Protection Act of 1984, a bill which will toughen the Federal laws dealing with the production and distribution of pornographic materials involving children. It strengthens prosecuting authority against the producers and distributors, and it creates stiffer penalties for them.

And I feel very strongly about these measures. There's no one lower or more vicious than a person who would profit from the abuse of children, whether by using them in pornographic material or by encouraging their sexual abuse by distributing this material.

For years, some people have argued that this kind of pornography is a matter of artistic creativity and freedom of expression and so on and so on, and they go on with that. Well, it's not. This pornography is ugly and dangerous. If we do not move against it and protect our children, then we, as a society, just aren't worth much.

In the last few months, we've seen news reports of cases involving child pornography and child abuse on a large scale. We've seen reports suggesting a link between child molesting and pornography. And academics' studies have suggested a link between pornography and sexual violence toward women.

Back in 1970, you may recall, a Presidential commission studied this whole issue. And its famous conclusion was that pornography has no significant effect on behavior.

I think the evidence that has come out since that time, plus the tendency of pornography to become increasingly more extreme, shows that it is time to take a new look at this conclusion, and it's time to stop pretending that extreme pornography is a victimless crime.

And so, I want to announce that the Attorney General is setting up a new national commission to study the effects of pornography on our society. The commission will study the dimensions of the problem and what we can do about it.

We've taken some other initiatives in the antipornography effort. Last year the Customs Service increased its seizures of obscene materials coming in across our borders by over 200 percent. Sixty percent of the material was child pornography. And just last week the Justice Department held a seminar for nearly 200 Federal and State prosecutors and investigators to train them on how to better deal with pornography cases, including child pornography.

So, I want to make our interests and our intentions known. We consider pornography to be a public problem, and we feel it is an issue that demands a second look.

And I am particularly happy to sign this bill in the presence of Congressman Harold Sawyer, Republican of Michigan. This bill is largely his work. He plans to retire at the end of the current term. And, Hal, I want you to know that your great efforts will be dearly missed in our nation's Congress and by this administration. And, by the way, may I also note that under your leadership this bill passed the House by a vote of 400 to 1 and enjoyed similar strong support in the Senate.

So, there are issues on which bipartisan agreement can be overwhelming. And I'm heartened by this, and I feel it bodes well for our dealings with this issue in the future.

And now, I will sign House resolution 3635, the Child Protection Act of 1984, with great satisfaction and great appreciation for the good work of the Congress on this and a declaration that this administration shares your commitment and will continue to work closely with you on this issue in the future.

[At this point, the President signed the bill into law.]

There -- and high time!

Note: The President spoke at 1:16 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

As enacted, H.R. 3635 is Public Law 98 - 292, approved May 21.