Denver — The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has lifted a court order that prohibited Kansas from enforcing a law that requires health care providers to report consensual underage sex to authorities.
The three-judge panel, in a 2-1 decision on Friday, reversed the finding of a lower court, ruling that Kansas has a legitimate interest in information about the voluntary sexual conduct of children that overrides the minor's right to privacy.
Under Kansas law, sexual contact with or among children under 16 is a crime.
The majority ruled that although minors have a right to informational privacy, it doesn't exist for illegal sexual conduct. They ruled the state has a greater interest in enforcing its criminal laws, protecting the best interest of minors and promoting public health.
The ruling lifts a preliminary injunction, and the case goes back to federal court for trial.
In July 2003, Atty. Gen. Phill Kline issued an opinion on the state's 1982 law requiring doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, social workers and others who work with minors to report suspected instances of underage sex, even if it involves willing partners of similar ages. Kline said that even consensual sex is inherently harmful to children.
The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit on behalf of health care providers at the Kansas City-based clinic Aid For Women, who argued they were being forced to choose between violating the law or violating their patients' trust.
Health care providers argued they shouldn't have to report minors' consensual sexual activity - even if it is illegal - because Kansas' official interest in such behavior isn't strong enough to overcome the right to privacy.