October 14, 2003
Volume 1, Number 11
The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), an abortion-rights advocacy group, has sought to redefine the legal meaning of sex abuse in order to reduce the legal responsibility of family planning clinics to report cases of abuse to the government. According to CRR, only sexual activity between an adolescent and "a much older partner" should be deemed statutory rape, and therefore necessary to report.
This opinion is presented in an injunction filed by CRR to block a Kansas law involving mandatory reporting. The law, building on longstanding Kansas legal precedent that sexual activity with minors is always criminal, even if perpetrators are close in age to their victims, holds that all sexual activity with minors must be reported to the appropriate authorities.
However, in its injunction, CRR makes the claim that sexual relations between what it calls "age-mates" is not "injurious" to adolescents. Thus, such relations should not be illegal. In the injunction, CRR shows particular concern for protecting "a range of consensual sexual activity between adolescents under age 16 and persons of similar age."
What is more, CRR asserts that clinic staffs should not be legally bound to disclose sexual activity between "age-mates." According to CRR, reporting adolescents is a violation of those adolescents' "confidentiality rights" and threatens "irreparable harm" to them, since they could hesitate to seek contraception or abortion due to fears that parents might discover their sexual activity. Furthermore, "automatic reporting of all sexual activity engaged in by these adolescents will…needlessly damage the trust necessary for…the professional relationship with the adolescents."
CRR does not explain the grounds for its sweeping claim that consensual sex between "age-mates" is not damaging. Nor does it define the limits of what constitutes "age-mates." Based upon the injunction, it would appear that any sexual relations between partners ranging from age 14 to age 19 should be protected from legal scrutiny.
In fact, CRR only seems to accept the potential of illegality when a minor is having sexual relations with a "much older partner." CRR and the plaintiffs it represents in the injunction state that they do "endorse the principle that where an adolescent has suffered an injury from sexual abuse - e.g., nonconsensual sexual activity with a much older partner - such abuse should be reported to appropriate government authorities." Even here, CRR makes sure to highlight cases of "nonconsensual" sexual activity with a minor, thereby raising the possibility that there can be cases of "consensual" - and therefore legal - sex between adults and minors.
CRR, formerly known as the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, works to legalize abortion-on-demand internationally, especially in the Catholic countries of Latin America. Its injunction in Kansas appears part of a larger domestic campaign to defeat all parental notification laws. On its website, CRR carefully monitors states' parental notification laws, making special note of states in which the laws are not strictly enforced. According to a CRR press release, the group is most concerned that parental notification laws place adolescent girls "in a situation where they could be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will." According to CRR, adolescence starts at age 10