A court battle is in process over
Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline's interpretation of his state's statutory rape law. Kline wants to mandate reporting of any sexual activity of people under the age of 16 and has also subpoenaed medical records of abortion patients on the grounds that this will help him enforce the law and protect children from sexual predators. Critics of the moves charge that the strategy may deter youth from seeking advice about sexual matters, and that Kline's initiatives violate medical privacy rights. Both sides say they have the best interest of minors at heart. Find out more and get an update on an important Kansas court case below.
The Kansas Case
The new reporting structure mandated by Attorney General Kline could require that every girl under 16 who comes into a clinic, like Planned Parenthood, looking for birth control, or treatment of a sexually transmitted disease, must be reported to the state. Kline argues that the interests of protecting a youngster from sexual abuse trumps the issue of medical privacy:
"The act of committing a rape of a child injures that child as a matter of law. The long held policy of the State of Kansas is that sexual intercourse, consensual or non-consensual, with a child of a specific age or younger is harmful to the child and that such conduct should be prohibited. This policy is of such weight that the State prescribes strong penalties for violators of this prohibition. This action reflects the State's interest in justice, protecting children, deterring future wrongful conduct and the belief that sexual intercourse, in any fashion, with children is inherently harmful to the child. The State's position is supported by extensive empirical data and the long-term nature of the policy.--Attorney General Opinion No. 2003-17
A lawsuit brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights and other health care organizations is challenging Kline's opinion. The suit contends that the proposed reporting requirement would violate young patients' right to privacy in a way that harms the caregivers' "…professional relationship…" with their patients, "…threatening adolescent health."
Some of those who would be affected argue that as medical providers they are already bound to report suspected incidence of child abuse. Further, they contend that the reporting requirement may have a chilling effect on girls seeking vital medical information, citing a study published in THE JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION in 2002. That study found that 47% of girls under age 18
attending family planning clinics would no longer attend if their parents were notified. The study also found that 99% said they would continue having sex. (Find out more about teen pregnancy.)
Kline has also moved to obtain the medical records of more than 90 women who received late-term abortions in 2003, saying he has evidence that doctors at two clinics illegally performed late term abortions and failed to properly report violations of Kansas' statutory rape law where young girls had undergone abortions. And, rhetoric is heating up on both sides of the question. An editorial in the NATIONAL REVIEW stated "If only Michael Jackson were interested in girls instead of boys, he might, in the right circumstances, have a friend in Planned Parenthood." Those on the other side have called Kline's tactics "an inquisition." Both cases are still in the courts. The records case was heard by the state supreme court this fall. The case involving reporting of sexually active minors is headed for federal district court.
Records Case Update
The Kansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the records case this fall and could issue a decision any day now. Planned Parenthood so far has refused to turn the records over. The group did offer to give the Attorney General all the records he's asked for with all private information stripped out of the documents. The Attorney General's Deputy Attorney General Eric Rucker stated "This is a criminal investigation. We cannot depend on the good-faith redaction of records by those being investigated". According to The Associated Press, the Attorney General's office said they would set up a procedure where a licensed physician would review the records and determine what was relevant, with the judge deciding what Kline's office saw.
The testimony before the Kansas Supreme Court touched the question of whether the Attorney General's Office had requested on the records of girls who had terminations. Deputy Attorney General Rucker told the court that Kline's office is examining live births but has not yet subpoenaed such records. When asked if the office had requested records from any other institutions required by law to report child abuse (teachers, medical officials), the Attorney General's spokesman said they had not.
You can listen to the September 9, 2005 arguments in their entirety. For additional information on the decision when it is rendered check the Kansas Supreme Court.
The Indiana Case
A similar case is also playing out in Indiana.
In March 2005, Indiana's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit requested the medical records of 73 low-income patients from Planned Parenthood of Indiana. Indiana's Attorney General Steve Carter said he's using the powers of the fraud unit to investigate whether Planned Parenthood's clinics are following the law by reporting cases of children who are having sex before they turn 14.
Planned Parenthood subsequently filed a lawsuit in Marion Superior Court to prevent the fraud unit from seizing the medical records. In May, Marion County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Johnson found in favor of Attorney General Steve Carter, ordering Planned Parenthood to hand over the records. In his ruling the judge stated: "Greater public interest must be served in reporting child abuse and therefore trumps privacy concerns… "both the patient and the state are benefited by the disclosure." In June, the Indiana Court of Appeals issued a restraining order barring the state from seizing the records until the court rules on Planned Parenthood's appeal of the lower court's ruling.
Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter
Kansans for Life
The Web site for the pro-life advocacy group contains news and information on legislation on both a state and national level.
Life Dynamics was founded as a non-profit pro-life organization in 1992 by pro-life activist Mark Crutcher. The group's mission is "to end legal abortion and return the right to life to unborn babies from the moment of conception." The group's Abortion Malpractice (ABMAL) program provides litigation support services to attorneys in medical malpractice cases against abortion clinic operators and abortionists.
Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri
The group's Web site contains information on medical services, advocacy and education.
ProKanDo is a pro-choice political action committee in Kansas which raises money for pro-choice candidates and lobbies at the state level. Their Web site contains news and information on legislation on both a state and national level.