To comply with a new state law, Kansas abortion providers now must send the Kansas Bureau of Investigation identifying information and fetal tissue from all abortion patients younger than age 14.
"If you're younger than 14 and you're pregnant, there's only one way you got there - and that's statutory rape," said Sen. Kay O'Connor, R-Olathe, sponsor of the law when it was before the Kansas Senate.
O'Connor said she and others hope the new law will help law enforcement agencies catch men who prey on young girls.
But a counselor with Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center warned that tissue collecting and information sharing will likely cause some pregnant teens to delay talking to a counselor or seeking medical care.
"This is not going to curb sexual activity," said Tami Radohl, a Bert Nash counselor at Southwest Junior High. "But it will, I'm afraid, discourage pregnant teens from turning to adults for help."
Age of consent
The new law, known as the Child Rape Protection Act, requires any doctor who performs an abortion in Kansas on girls younger than age 14 to collect fetal tissue and send it, along with identifying information, to the KBI.
It also requires that a copy of the identifying information be sent to the abortion provider's local police or sheriff's department. The information also is to include the girl's parents' or legal guardians' names, addresses and telephone numbers.
Passed by the 2005 Legislature, the new law took effect July 11.
In Kansas, the age of consent is 16. The Child Rape Protection Act only focuses on girls younger than 14 because of the state's so-called Romeo and Juliet law, which exempts consensual sex when participants are between 14 and 19.
According to Kansas Department of Health and Environment statistics, 11,427 abortions were performed in the state last year. Of these, 30 involved girls under 14.
Eleven of the 30 girls were from Kansas; 19 were from out of state.
"We are complying with the law," said Peter Brownlie, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
"They're very uncommon. In the first six months of this year, we had five," Brownlie said, referring to the abortions performed at the Planned Parenthood clinics in Kansas.
Last month, Atty. Gen. Phill Kline's office drafted four pages of rules and regulations that spelled a plan for enforcing the new law. The draft will be discussed during an Aug. 22-23 meeting of the Joint Committee on Rules and Regulations. A hearing for soliciting input form the public is set for Oct. 5.
Brownlie said Planned Parenthood would not protest collecting tissue for and sharing information with the KBI.
Radohl said she was aware there have been 19- and 20-year-old men in Lawrence who use alcohol and drugs to coax 13- and 14-year-old girls into having sex, but most young pregnancies involve sexual partners closer in age to one another.
"What I see the most by far are teens having sex with other teens," Radohl said.
Julie Burkhart, head of the Wichita-based ProKanDo abortion rights lobby, accused the new law's supporters of governing by intimidation.
"This isn't about protecting children," Burkhart said. "It's about shaming patients at a time in their young lives when they need support. If it was about protecting children, then why does the law only apply to abortions? Why doesn't it require hospitals to collect tissue for girls under 14 who give birth?"
KDHE records show that in 2003 - the latest data available - 40 girls between ages 10 and 14 gave birth. Included in those 40 births were two in Douglas County, two in Johnson County, 10 in Sedgwick County and 11 in Wyandotte County.
O'Connor said the bill did not include hospitals because there's little evidence that hospitals have covered up underage pregnancies.
The same, she said, cannot be said about the state's abortion providers.
O'Connor cited tape-recorded telephone calls in which clinic workers are heard telling callers posing as abortion-seeking 13-year-old girls how to keep their 22-year-old boyfriends out of trouble.
Burkhart and Brownlie have denied the tapes' authenticity.
O'Connor confirmed that the tapes were provided by Life Dynamics, an anti-abortion group based in Texas.
"What we're trying to do is stop these rapes," O'Connor said.
Spokesmen for associations representing the state's doctors and hospitals said they did not plan to testify against the proposed rules and regulations.
"We're not going to get involved in that," said Jerry Slaughter, executive director of the Kansas Medical Society. "It's our assumption that those who provide the service are prepared to do that."
Brownlie said he would ask the committee to modify portions of the rules and regulations.
"Some of what's in there is unenforceable, like it says tissue samples have to be at least 5 square centimeters in size," he said. "Well, for medical abortions there may not be that much."
Medical abortions are those induced by drugs rather than surgical procedures.