Kansas Liberty: 29 September 2009
KFL official: 'Predators need to know that clinics are under the pressure of law to report pregnant minors'
Pro-life organization charges AG with lax enforcement of abortion monitoring
Kathy Ostrowski, Kansans for Life legislative director, said that although Kansas has recently strengthened its child abuse reporting laws, abortion clinics are not feeling pressured by Attorney General Steve Six to report cases of sexual abuse to the proper authorities.
After the state lost the Aid for Women vs. Foulston case in 2006, an injunction was put in place allowing clinics to bypass certain mandatory sexual abuse reporting requirements for girls younger than 16 years of age. The reporting guidelines had been put in place by Attorney General Phill Kline, a pro-life prosecutor. The outcome of the case was widely publicized in both local and national media as well as pro-life and pro-choice organizations.
In 2007, the injunction and court decision was vacated, an action that went unnoticed by the public and unpublicized by the media. Paul Morrison was serving as attorney general at the time.
Ostrowski said Six needs to make the reversal of the injunction made public and to reiterate that child abuse cases must be reported by abortion clinics, a practice that may have slipped after pro-choice advocates won the Aid for Women case.
“AG Six should announce what AG Morrison didn’t — that the state’s duty to prosecute child rape overrides the clinics’ privacy argument and 'don't ask, don't tell' policy,” Ostrowski said. “Predators need to know that clinics are under the pressure of law to report pregnant minors to police or the state child protective agency, SRS.”
In recent years, abuse-reporting requirements have been strengthened by both the Kansas Legislature and the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.
The Legislature passed a comprehensive child protection law in 2006 that tweaked several statutes, including child abuse reporting requirements. The former child abuse reporting requirement stipulated that reportable cases included situations in which a child had been “injured” while illegal sexual activity occurred.
The revamped protection law, which went into effect in January 2007, expanded the definition of abuse to require for cases to be reported in which a child has been “harmed,” which is defined as “physical or psychological injury or damage.”
The previous child protection law had been interpreted by former Attorney General Robert Stephan. Stephan’s 1992 opinion allowed for child abuse reporting to only take place in cases of pregnant minors, after a series of variables were met, or on a “case-by-case basis.” Stephan’s opinion determined that a pregnancy does not necessarily signal that “injury” has occurred and therefore is not necessarily a reportable incident.
Kline differed in his interpretation of the law. Kline’s 2003 attorney general opinion determined that child abuse must be reported each time a girl under the age of 16 is provided with an abortion, as the very act of sex with a minor of that age is considered unlawful.
Kline’s opinion stated: “Because sexual intercourse with any girl under the age of 16 is statutorily defined as 'sexual abuse,' as a matter of law sexual abuse has occurred. We also reach the conclusion that sexual abuse of a child is inherently injurious, thereby triggering the mandatory reporting requirement.”
Kline’s opinion — which fueled the Aid for Women lawsuit — received harsh treatment from the media and the general public, even after Kline made it apparent he had no intentions of prosecuting situations where consensual sex occurred between two minors of similar ages.
In addition to the changes made by the Legislature, the Kansas SRS has also published strong abuse reporting requirements. The department has referred to reportable sexual abuse as an activity between minors, 17 years of age and younger, which involves “force, intimidation, difference in maturity or coercion.”
Ostrowski said she considered the SRS requirements, and the changes made by the Legislature to be a “one, two punch” against child abusers, and that abortion clinics should follow these requirements to allow the proper authorities to weigh in on whether a case should be prosecuted.
“Thus, with even Kansas’ SRS agency acknowledging peer sex may not be consensual, it is less defensible today for clinics to be the sole arbiters in deciding which minor pregnancies authorities can investigate,” Ostrowski said.
Michelle Ponce, spokesperson with SRS, said she could not release information regarding how many child sexual abuse cases had been reported by abortion providers to the SRS within recent years.
“We are unable to release the requested data because the requested data falls into an exception to the Open Records Act in that it may lead to the identity of a reporter,” Ponce told Kansas Liberty.
Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, and Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, uncovered a recorded phone conversation earlier this year in which an underage girl received pregnancy testing and contraception information from the Overland Park Planned Parenthood location. This location provides abortion services.
The girl identified herself as 14 years old and as being possibly pregnant by her 23-year-old sexual partner. The Planned Parenthood did not report the unlawful sexual relationship.
Pro-life proponents, including Kinzer, have been pleased with the recent changes to mandatory reporting.
“Providing information about abuse of minors is very important, and the reality is the statute that deals with that particular issue I feel has been expanded in some ways to include a broader definition of harm and not just direct injury,” Kinzer told Kansas Liberty.
Rep. Mike Kiegerl, R-Olathe, said he believed that abortion clinics in Kansas became comfortable with skirting the law while Kathleen Sebelius was serving as governor, and Larry Buening as the director of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts. Sebelius received substantial amounts of her campaign donations from pro-choice supporters including the late Dr. George Tiller, and Buening was known to be a personal friend of Tiller’s.
Kiegerl, vice chair of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, said Kansas has strong laws on its books regarding reporting requirements, but that he was not confident that abortion clinics were following them.
“I think there is reasonable cause to think that we are not getting the whole story from them,” Kiegerl told Kansas Liberty.
Kiegerl pointed out that the state has a history of having strong abortion-related laws, with the laws not being enforced to their full potential.
“Our late-term abortion laws would have been adequate if they had been followed, but abortion providers flaunted the law,” he said. “Our laws are perfectly fine; they are not the problem.”
Kiegerl did not have criticism or praise on how Six’s administration is handling child sexual abuse reporting requirements.
“With Buening gone, we should get better enforcement, and I certainly would expect Six to follow the law more closely,” Kiegerl said.
Kansans for Life
Phill Kline’s 2003 opinion
Robert Stephan’s 1992 opinion