Friday, December 5, 2008

Politicizing Statutory Rape Reporting Requirements

Last night Bill O'Reilly reported on a "sting operation" some UCLA college students conducted on Planned Parenthoods to catch them in the act of refusing to report statutory rape when minors come in seeking confidential reproductive health care.  Here is the video:

Of course, he of the "no-spin" zone declines to mention the often confusing intersection of statutory rape laws, child abuse reporting laws, and patient confidentiality requirements reproductive health care providers must navigate.  He also ignores the conflicting health policy concerns that confront health care professionals who want to protect minors from abuse while also ensuring that fear of disclosure does not deter minors from seeking important healthcare they need and want, whether that be contraceptive services, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, abortion, or pregnancy care and counseling.

For a more balanced and informed discussion of the issue, see Politicizing Statutory Rape Reporting Requirements: A Mounting Campaign?, by the Guttmacher Institute.  Here's an excerpt:

State laws requiring the reporting of sexual intercourse involving an underage minor—often referred to as "statutory rape"—are intended to safeguard adolescents from sexual coercion and exploitation, particularly by older partners. This body of law is complex and sometimes unclear, and therefore can be difficult for law enforcement agents, school officials, reproductive health care providers and other adults who frequently interact with adolescents to navigate.

Beyond the legal complexity and ambiguity, statutory rape reporting requirements can present a challenge for those who recognize the value in both assuring that minors have access to confidential health care and protecting adolescents from sexual exploitation. This is particularly true for reproductive health care providers, who usually are obliged to report suspected cases of sexual abuse—and often are uniquely positioned to detect it. At the same time, they are ethically, and sometimes legally, required to honor a patient's privacy rights.

Abortion, Contraception, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexually Transmitted Disease, Teenagers and Children | Permalink

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