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03/11/2005
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Kansas bishops laud clinics' records inquiry


MERRIAM, Kan. (CNS) - The Catholic bishops of Kansas have welcomed an effort by the state's attorney general to investigate records of two abortion clinics for possible discovery and prosecution of criminal sexual acts against minors.

The abortion clinics have appealed a court order to turn over certain records on patients that might provide evidence of sex crimes against girls under 16 or violations of legal limitations on late-term abortions.

"Sex crimes against children must not be shielded and hidden," the bishops said in a joint statement issued Feb. 28 by the Kansas Catholic Conference in Merriam.

"Privacy rights should never be used to shield those who molest children from investigation by government authorities," the bishops said. "To use the mantras of choice and privacy as a means to block the investigation of child rape is an unconscionable act."

The bishops called on the abortion industry to report to appropriate government authorities whenever there is evidence that a minor under the age of 16 has been impregnated. "Abortion clinics should not be immune from complying with state law obligating the reporting of sexual abuse of a minor," they said.

According to data gathered yearly by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and posted on its Web site, there were 78 abortions on girls 14 or younger in 2003. There were 88 such abortions recorded in 2002, 83 in 2001, and more than 100 in each of the three preceding years, for a total of 577 over a six-year period.

From the department's published statistics it is not possible to tell how many of the abortion recipients in the 15-19 age group during those years were under 16 at the time of the abortion or at the time of impregnation.

In a statement Feb. 24, Kansas Attorney General Phillip D. Kline said, "Rape is a serious crime and when a 10-, 11- or 12-year-old is pregnant, they have been raped under Kansas law. ... The issue before the (Kansas) Supreme Court is whether a district court judge can issue a subpoena when the judge has probable cause to believe that crimes have occurred, including child rape."

He said that the child's privacy "is always protected" in such investigations "and the clinics should not act to protect the secrecy of the predator."

Shortly after taking office in 2003, Kline issued a legal opinion saying that medical professionals are required by law to report to state authorities incidents of criminal sexual activity with someone under the age of consent, 16 in Kansas.

That opinion was contested in federal court by abortion providers on the grounds of doctor-patient privilege and last July U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten issued a temporary restraining order against enforcement, pending a decision on the case.

Kline sought the abortion clinic records through Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson last October, according to The Wichita Eagle daily newspaper, which disclosed the investigation Feb. 24 after the clinics filed an appeal against the subpoenas with the state Supreme Court. The newspaper said legal procedures in the county court prior to the appeal were conducted under court seal and not open to the public.

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