February 1, 2006
Linking Statutory Rape and Abortion

By Dennis Byrne

In Kansas, the Child Rape Protection Act requires doctors performing abortions on girls under 14 to preserve fetal tissue. The idea is to protect evidence that would help law enforcement officials nab child sex abusers.

The law's supporters believe that it might be the most aggressive of any such law in the nation. But my guess is that it would eventually be found unconstitutional because of the prevailing U.S. Supreme Court view that guards at great length women's reproductive decisions. An attempt to pass a similar law last year in California went nowhere, and rare is the legislature that would undertake such a direct assault on abortion records.

Yet, it's the kind of law that captures the imaginations and support of pro-life groups, such as the ones that gathered last weekend at the SpeakOut Illinois conference in Oakbrook Terrace. Some want more legal protections, such as the Kansas law, for girls who turn up pregnant and have abortions. They ask: What better way for a child predator to get away clean than to destroy the physical evidence of his attack in the fetus' DNA?

Figures recently released by the Illinois Department of Public Health fuel that concern in Illinois. In 2004, the latest data available, more than 3,100 girls age 17 and younger had abortions. Of them, 290 were 14 or younger. In Illinois, a pregnant girl that young should be a warning sign of possible sexual predation, or something.

Statutes dealing with Illinois sexual offenses no longer speak of rape, so we should avoid that emotionally loaded word. But the law, while complicated as it pertains to minors, outlines several instances where rape in the old-fashioned meaning can be suspected.

- Criminal sexual assault is when someone has sexual penetration with a person under the age of 18 who is a family member, or sex with a person at least 13 but under 18, when the perpetrator is 17 or older and in a position of trust.

- Aggravated criminal sexual assault is a Class X felony when the perpetrator uses force or threatens to commit an act of penetration with a child victim.

- Predatory criminal sexual assault is committed when a child is under 13 and the perpetrator is 17 or older.

The law covers crimes committed by younger perpetrators under the categories of criminal sexual abuse and aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Pro-life groups believe it is fair to assume that some fraction of the 3,100-plus abortions involving minors resulted from one of these criminal acts.

They have reason to suspect that some of these are not being properly reported: Undercover investigations were conducted in several states, including Illinois, in which a caller posing as a 13- or 14-year-old pregnant girl was assured by abortion clinics that no one would be told about her pregnancy or abortion. The investigation, conducted by Texas-based Life Dynamics, a pro-life group, recorded these conversations, in which the caller said she was impregnated by her 22-year-old boyfriend. Although many clinics acknowledged that reporting the crime to authorities was legally required, the overwhelming majority agreed to conceal it.

It is impossible to say if all abortion clinics in Illinois are conforming to the mandatory reporting law requiring that child-welfare authorities be informed of suspicions of sexual abuse and assault. It'll take more resources than are available to me: subpoena power, legal muscle, a newspaper investigative team, legislative hearings, whatever.

Two years ago, Jill Stanek of the Committee to Protect Illinois Children requested that Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan find out. The office's two-sentence letter of reply said the responsibility for such investigations lies with the various state's attorneys. Stanek said she tried to get some of them interested, but without success.

It's generally better not to get the authorities involved, Abigail English, director of the Center for Adolescent Health and the Law, said in a 2004 article in the Guttmacher Report. Better to recast the laws to target "truly exploitive or abusive" behaviors. And better to end the mandatory reporting requirement to allow the "health-care provider discretion in determining whether abuse has occurred," she said.

We no longer speak of statutory rape. Instead, pro-choice literature speaks about minors having "unwanted" and "non-voluntary" sex, as if it weren't so bad. I don't know what happened to "No means no!" but my druthers are that the final determination of whether a child is a victim of a sexual crime should be in the hands of law enforcement.

Dennis Byrne is a Chicago-area writer and consultant. E-mail: dennis@dennisbyrne.net

Dennis Byrne

Author Archive
Email Author
Print This Article
Send Article To a Friend

More Commentary

Is Our Children Learning? - John Stossel
Fight the Bullies of Islam - Michelle Malkin
Old Radicalism or New Pragmatism? - Austin Bay

More From Dennis Byrne

Quit Kvetching About the Drug Plan
Not Another Chavez Chump
Ted Kennedy: The Ghost of McCarthy Past