Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Defeat for Kline in teen sex inquisition

AP reports

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- In a victory for an abortion rights group, a federal judge ruled Tuesday that abortion clinic doctors and other professionals are not required under Kansas law to report underage sex between consenting youths.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten was a setback for Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, an abortion foe.

Kline contended a 1982 Kansas law requiring doctors, teachers and others to alert the state and law enforcement about potential child abuse covers consensual sex between minors. He argued that the law applies to abortion clinics, and later extended that to other health professionals and teachers.

The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged that interpretation in court, and the judge sided with the organization. Kline said he had not decided whether to appeal.

"It's not unexpected," Kline said. "It's what we've been predicting."

Marten ruled that a plain reading of the Kansas law gives health care providers discretion to determine whether there is reason to suspect a child has been injured as a result of sexual abuse.

Kline's position was actually more extreme than this AP story conveys. He argued that even under-16 teen sexual contact even far short of intercourse had to be reported. According to Kline, what used to be called "second base" is required to be reported as illegal sexual activity between minors.

There's a better, more accurate story from the Wichita Eagle's Ron Sylvester

Marten, however, also ruled that Klines efforts to narrow the interpretation of the law wasn't proper, r. A legal opinion offered by Kline in 2003 could have forced health care professionals to report most sexual activity among their patients under the age of 16.

That opinion prompted a lawsuit against Kline and prosecutors such as Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston by a group that included doctors, nurses, social workers and psychologists from the Wichita and Kansas City areas. They contended Kline's opinion, if enforced, would invade the privacy of their young adult patients.

Marten pointed out that both sides conceded that mandatory reporting should include all cases of incest, sexual abuse of a child by an adult and sexual activities involving a child under age 12.

"Therefore," Marten wrote, "the only issue presented is whether consensual underage sexual activity must be reported (under Kansas law)."

The Eagle has the judge's opinion on-line in a PDF.

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