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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

Group Seeks Injunction Over Requiring Reports of Minors' Sex




 

Associated Press (10.07.03) - Wednesday, October 08, 2003

In a class-action lawsuit filed Monday in US District Court in Wichita, health care workers and other youth counselors asked a judge to bar enforcement of a Kansas law requiring them to report the sexual activity of persons under age 16 as evidence of child abuse. A June opinion by Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline left many people, including county prosecutors, confused, the suit said.

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights filed the suit, which seeks to prevent the reporting law from being applied to consensual sex between teenagers, on behalf of 13 Kansans. The suit claims fewer youths will seek medical treatment, psychological counseling and other services if they fear their sexual activity will be reported to authorities.

Kansas law makes sex involving someone under 16 illegal, no matter what the context. Another law requires prompt reporting to government authorities when youth workers suspect a child has been abused. Kline's opinion said that under the law, any illegal sexual activity is inherently injurious and must be reported. A 1992 opinion by Attorney General Robert Stephan had said such activity may be injurious but was not inherently so, allowing for case-by-case discretion. Because of Kline's opinion, the lawsuit said, the plaintiffs - who include doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and a sex education teacher - have received conflicting advice about the law and are confused about how to avoid criminal prosecution.

While Kline's opinion dealt primarily with abortion, saying the pregnancy of a girl under 16 is evidence of child abuse, Kline has acknowledged it might require health professionals to report cases where a teenager seeks treatment for an STD or where a teenage girl seeks birth control and reveals she is sexually active. On Monday, Kline said his opinion broke no new ground, and he expressed concern that the plaintiffs are challenging the mandatory reporting law.



 


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Information in this article was accurate in October 8, 2003. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.