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

KANSAS: Teen-Sex Law Enforcement Before Judge




 

Wichita Eagle (11.26.03) - Wednesday, November 26, 2003

On Tuesday, doctors and lawyers squared off in federal court in a case involving how much discretion to give physicians and prosecutors in reporting sexual practices among people under age 16.

Last summer, Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline presented a controversial opinion that said doctors, psychologists, nurses and other health care providers should report all suspected sexual activity in that age group. Under a 20-year-old state statute, any sexual contact by someone under 16 can lead to criminal charges. Before Kline's opinion, health care providers were only required to report instances where they believed sexual activity had harmed a young person. Now doctors fear the law will silence teens and put them at risk.

Health experts say teens will not stop having sex because of the ruling but will stop seeking the health care that can prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Doctors agree that cases of sexual abuse - such as rape, incest or molestation - should continue to be reported.

Jonathan Klein, an expert on adolescent medicine, coauthored a study showing that most teens do not access health care due to fear and embarrassment. That can lead, he cautioned, to young people not seeking contraceptives or counseling on sexual practices.

Health care providers asked for an injunction so prosecutors cannot charge them with a Class B misdemeanor for not reporting less serious cases. Some doctors testified that such a charge could put their licenses at risk or cause them to face ethical violations.

Aid to Women, a health service that provides abortions, is bringing the class action. Clinic officials fear Kline's action gives the state too much authority to target teens and health care providers for criminal investigations.

The judge in the case is expected to rule by late December.



 


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Information in this article was accurate in November 26, 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.