A bill advancing at the statehouse would charge adults who are "grooming" young children for sex by showing them pornography. The Human Resources Committees in the Iowa House and Senate on Monday unanimously approved bills that make it a crime for the parent, guardian or custodian of a child to "knowingly" expose the kid to pornography.

Senator Becky Schmitz, a Democrat from Fairfield, recently retired after 27 years as a social worker at an Area Education Agency in southeast Iowa. "Part of the reason that I wanted to pursue this is out of my own frustration having worked with young children and…having the strong, gut feeling that something was going on by stories that they would tell me about things going on in the home and knowing that there wasn’t anything that we could do or the Department of Human Services could do until there was actual physical evidence of the sexual abuse," Schmitz says.

Schmitz heard chilling stories from young children who were being shown pornography — apparently in order to encourage them to engage in sex acts.  "We would have young children who would talk about things that they were exposed to in their own home," Schmitz says.

Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, says child psychologists tell her showing obscene materials to a very young child can turn that child into a predator. "It’s a form of abuse and it’s one of the ways that they desensitize children to the material, making them think that it’s normal and that those kinds of behaviors are normal," Mascher says. "…They are psychologically damaged and if we can do things to intervene earlier on I believe we can have a much greater impact a child’s life and protect them in a way that will prevent them from being that next generation of abusers."

It’s already illegal for a stranger to show pornography to a child. If the bill becomes law, parents found guilty of knowingly showing pornography to their child may be charged with abuse — and they could lose custody. Bill backers say fathers who show their 16-year-old sons a Playboy won’t be charged with abuse, but moms and dads who show pornography to toddlers, grade schoolers and pre-teens — might.