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Los Angeles County declines to force condom use in porn films

February 2, 2010 |  3:03 pm

Los Angeles County officials Tuesday rebuffed demands from an AIDS activist group that the county’s public health officials take immediate action to require performers in porn films to wear condoms.


FOR THE RECORD
Added at 11:57 a.m. March 2: An earlier version of this post carried the headline “L.A. County can't require condoms for porn actors, officials say.” As the post notes, county health officials said it would be difficult or costly to carry out such a policy. The headline has been updated to reflect that.

County officials said the California Legislature would need to approve legislation that would require condom use for pornography shoots. They said it would be difficult to try to regulate the porn industry through the county's Public Health Department.

"It is very, very difficult to implement. There are roughly 200 production companies with about...1,200 actors,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county's public health chief. “All you need is a room and a camera and a bed, basically, to do this kind of shoot, and we have no ability to police this.”

Fielding said that it would be difficult for public health officials to prove if the movies were produced in L.A. County or elsewhere, as producers often do not apply for filming licenses. In a memo to supervisors on Sept. 17, health officials warned such an effort would be costly, as the public health department would need to identify filming sites and monitor compliance, which would require significant staff time.

"We worked closely with county counsel trying to see if there’s some other way that we could effectively do this under existing authority, and what we’ve come up with is, basically, we’re unlikely to to have an effective approach to prevent them from acquiring preventable STDs,” Fielding said Tuesday. “It’s very disturbing to come to that conclusion, but we also have to be realistic.”

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the San Fernando Valley, agreed that adult film performers are vulnerable to sexually-transmitted diseases and said they deserve some kind of protection through the law. But he said the state’s legislators would need to act.

“I think the only answer to this at the end of the day is a statewide approach to this, which would also empower law enforcement, and you run sting operations,” he said.  “All you’ve got to do is make one or two arrests and the rest of the...industry will understand pretty quickly that there’s a risk."

Yaroslavsky said, however, that not a single California lawmaker has been willing to sponsor such legislation.

Fielding’s department testified to California lawmakers in 2004 asking the Legislature to approve a law that would regulate the adult film industry; require condom use during filming; implement STD screening requirements, which would be paid by the industry; and have film companies pay for the local cost of monitoring compliance.

Brian Chase, assistant general counsel for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, accused the county of having “done nothing” to protect adult film performers during Tuesday’s meeting.

In December, an L.A. County Superior Court judge dismissed the foundation’s petition seeking a court order to compel county health officials to require condom use on porn sets or take other reasonable steps to stem the spread of disease. The court ruled that the county has broad discretion in how it oversees public health.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II at the L.A. County Hall of Administration

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