Thursday, April 20, 2006

Teens Protected Under Kansas Ruling

If you have teenagers, like I do, then you worry about them. They're out of your sight a lot, their friends don't meet your approval, they joke about things you wish they'd never heard of.

The Attorney General in Kansas ... yes, it's Kansas again ... recently had a bright idea. He discovered that some teens are having sex -- well, as we know, about half of them are -- and he reasoned that since it's against the law to have sex with someone under the age of sixteen, every doctor or nurse who sees evidence that a teenager has had sex must report it as rape.

The Wichita Eagle carried part of the story a couple of months ago -- here're some excerpts:
Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, who has concentrated on protecting young teens from sexual abuse, drew a legal distinction Friday between the activities of boys and girls.

Kline's comments about oral sex included stating that it is illegal for boys 15 and younger to perform the act -- but he wasn't sure if the same is true for girls.

He was testifying in federal court about a legal opinion he gave three years ago on teenage pregnancy. The case pits doctors and other health care providers concerned about the privacy of patients against government investigators of sexual abuse.

Kline told a federal judge in Wichita that he sought to protect young girls from unlawful sexual intercourse but that his opinion also would require health care professionals to report other activities to state social services.


[Lawyer from the Center of Reproductive Rights, Bonnie Scott] Jones asked: "What sex act would be legal for a 15-year-old?"

Kline replied: "I've seen references about kissing and telling, but that's not a part of Kansas law."

Jones asked Kline what contact would be acceptable.

"It's difficult for me to say, maybe, kissing and petting," Kline said.

Jones: "Would fondling of the genitalia be included?"

Kline: "Again, it's difficult to say."

Jones: "What do you mean by petting?"

Kline: "Something that doesn't shock the moral conscience."

Jones: "Would you include French-kissing?"

Kline: "I don't believe so."

Jones: "What if the French-kissing occurred while lying on top of each other?"

Kline paused.

"I don't believe so."

Then Kline distilled his opinion: "The rape of a child is abuse."

In Kansas, rape includes voluntary intercourse with anyone 14 or younger. A person may be charged with aggravated indecent liberties for intercourse with someone who is 15 or fondling someone under 15.

On cross-examination by a lawyer from his own office, Kline said his opinion was limited to obtaining records from abortion clinics.

"An abortion provider must report an underage pregnancy," Kline said.

Kline said pregnancy in a girl under 16 is evidence of a crime.

"To my knowledge, that is the entirety of the scope of this opinion," Kline told Camille Nohe, assistant attorney general.

He explained that penetration of genitals is a crime, and that such crimes inherently injure young people and are abuse.

Jones had more questions:

"Is a 15-year-old girl engaging in oral sex on a 15-year-old boy, is that a crime?"

Kline: "If there's penetration, yes."

Jones: "What would be the penetration?"

Kline: "I'm not certain."

Jones cited Kansas law's definition: penetration "however slight, of a male or female by any body part or object."

Is it a crime, Jones asked, "for 15-year-old boy to perform oral sex on a 15-year old girl?"

Kline: "Yes."

Jones: "Is it inherently injurious for a 15-year-old girl to engage in oral sex on a 15-year-old boy?"

Kline: "I'm not certain." Kline's views on teen sex unclear

OK, you can see this gets very difficult. How many movies have teenagers engaging in long, smoochy, moonlight kisses and interminable hugs, fading to you-fill-in-the-blanks? Our society obviously accepts some of it. Once you start asking these kinds of questions, you realize nobody knows where "the line" is. You can see that there is a certain element of sexism in this guy's interpretation of the law, what's good for the goose should not be permitted for the gander (or, whichever one is which).

You can also see that he's trying to use this as a tricky way to hassle abortion clinics. He says they're the only ones who will have to report teen sex. That would mean that some people who need abortions won't be able to get one.

Well, this week a federal judge finally ruled on all this craziness. The Eagle again:
Kansas' chief law enforcement officer misread the law and in doing so threatened the sexual privacy of the state's teenagers, a federal judge in Wichita ruled Tuesday.

In a case watched across the nation, U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten ruled that Kansas health care providers should retain discretion in deciding what teenage sexual activities they report to the state as abuse. Attorney General Phill Kline had wanted most sexual contact involving children under age 16 reported.

Marten pointed out that both sides agreed certain abusive acts should always be reported, including incest, sexual abuse of a child by an adult, and sex involving a child under age 12.

"Therefore, the only issue presented is whether consensual underage sexual activity must be reported," Marten wrote.

Later in the opinion, the judge added: "This case certainly is not about promoting sexual promiscuity among underage persons. Each and every witness testified that underage sex should be discouraged."

"This is the first time a federal court has recognized that the United States Constitution protects the right of young people to keep certain information they give their doctors and psychologists private," [Simon Heller, one of the lawyers representing the health care providers] said.

Kline, however, claimed victory.

"We have defended the constitutionality of the law successfully," he said in a statement released by his office.

Heller said Kline not only misstated Kansas law but also misinterpreted the judge's decision.

"This is only true in the 'Twilight Zone' world that Phill Kline lives in," he said.

Heller said no one argued the 1982 child abuse law was unconstitutional -- only the way Kline said it should be enforced. Judge rules against Kline in teen-sex case

See, everybody wants teens to be safe. All adults hope they will be responsible in their sexual choices, and all parents hope their children will choose to abstain from sex. If they do make foolish decisions, though, there is a possibility they will need medical treatment, for pregnancy, for infection, and in some cases they may need counseling and other services resulting from trauma, regret, fear, and other psychological factors. You don't want to make it impossible for them to see a doctor.


Blogger andrea said...

This nutter is not related to me in any way.

Andrea Kline

April 20, 2006 10:30 AM  

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