Your DNA Is Mine, Little Girl
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Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 12:17:05 AM EST
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe Christian right in Texas has a whole pack of pet politicians, and one of its "alpha dogs" is Rep. Robert Talton (right), a homophobe extraordinaire who distinguished himself by authoring our state's 2005 amendment to preserve the "sanctity of marriage," and by opposing adoption by gay or lesbian parents on direct orders from God. In a statehouse where intrusive anti-choice legislation is the norm, only a spectacularly outrageous bill stands out from the herd. But with credentials like his, Bob Talton is just the man for the job.

What about legislation stripping parents of legal rights over what happens to their daughter in the event that she should have an abortion before age 14? What about a bill ordering doctors, under penalty of law, to preserve tissue from their daughter's body, and turn that tissue over to the state police for DNA analysis? What about a bill subjecting her equally young boyfriend to prosecution as a sex offender  -- even though both sets of parents only wanted their children left alone?

In addition to parental consent for abortion, parents' rights are the rationale that "social conservatives" trot out for justifying everything from private school vouchers to abstinence-only education to opposition to the HPV vaccine. So coming from Bob Talton, a bill nullifying parental rights is pretty unusual -- but not as strange as the reason that a bill like this one makes the Christian right so happy.

One of the most cherished myths of religiously motivated anti-choice crusaders is that very young girls are routinely and criminally impregnated by adult men, and that clinics providing abortion care knowingly participate in covering up such crimes. On the basis of a phony "sting" operation perpetrated by Texas-based Life Dynamics International (LDI), Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline made adolescent puppy love a sex crime and spent years pursuing a fruitless prosecution of physicians and clinics in that state, an Ahab-like pursuit that culminated in his appointment of an Operation Rescue operative as a special prosecutor.

A woman impersonating a 13-year-old girl would call a clinic, ostensibly to schedule an abortion. The goal of the calls was to record the response of the clinic receptionist when told the girl on the line was 13 years old and that the man who had allegedly impregnated her was 22. Life Dynamics posted audio files and transcripts from the calls on the Web. ... The organization then claimed that the tapes proved that 91 percent of the clinics called didn't fulfill their legal obligation to report statutory rape, instead choosing to "sell more abortions, more birth control products and more treatments for sexually transmitted diseases when they turn a blind eye to child rape."  
"If you listen to those tapes in their entirety," says Kathy Kneer, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, "you can tell that they were designed to entrap our staff." Life Dynamics admits the calls were not, in fact, made by actual pregnant teenagers. "These actors playing young girls really prey on our staff's concern for getting these girls into care," she says.

Life Dynamics president Mark Crutcher is a nationally prominent campaigner against abortion rights. Crutcher networks extensively with other groups such as Focus on the Family, the American Life League, Human Life International and Fr. Frank Pavone's Priests for Life. His LDI website lists the addresses and phone numbers of providers of abortion care across the country on a page titled Death Camps, and his organization has an extensive history of highly questionable "investigations."

Life Dynamics is the same group that in the late '90s promoted the myth that abortion providers illicitly traffic in the sale of fetal tissue. In March 2000, sparked by a report on "20/20" that included the Life Dynamics claim, Congress launched an investigation of the supposed traffic. But the inquiry floundered when the star witness, a medical technician, admitted under oath that he'd lied on camera to "20/20" about witnessing fetal tissue smuggling and that he had been paid more than $20,000 by Life Dynamics.

LDI's "pedophile protection" charges are no more reliable. Kathy Kneer remarked, "If there was any proof that we have been covering up for child sexual predators, you can assume that we would have been facing real charges. Does that mean that law enforcement in 50 states has participated in this coverup? Does that mean district attorneys in every state have too?"

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingAccording to Life Dynamics, the answer to that question is an unequivocal yes, because of an "unholy relationship between police departments and abortion clinics." LDI operatives staked out several Dallas providers of abortion care during the summer of 2002, calling 911 when a teenage patient and her parents entered a clinic. When police officers realized the false nature of the complaints and refused to participate in the harassment of girls and their families, Life Dynamics threatened legal action against the police department.

The following exchange is excerpted from an August, 2002, "transcript of a radio broadcast in which Life Dynamics President Mark Crutcher (left) discussed their initiative with his attorney, Ed Zielinski.

Mark:  I think the point we want to make to the audience. We're going to pursue this hot and heavy.  This is going on all over the country. It is not just the Dallas Police.  We're hearing reports from other states, now, as well.   Because people are starting to report these. Sidewalk counselors are (reporting this).

Ed:  If this happened one time, it is reprehensible. but if its happening as much as it is, then this is criminal.  This is an act of criminal concert.

Mark:  What about off duty cops who are acting as security at abortion mills?

Ed:  They have the same obligation, Mark.  they never stop being a cop.

Mark:  And they are sitting there in the waiting room of these places or going in and out...and they are seeing these girls who are underage and they are just ignoring it.

Ed:  In fact, in Texas we have a statute, and other states  have similar statutes... that the failure to intervene when you know there is an aggravated sexual assault going on is a crime in itself.

Mark:  And you found a federal statute on that as well

Ed:  The federal statute is a conspiracy against civil rights.  What you have is if these police officers and police departments acting at the direction of the city are saying don't get involved in these cases, then they are violating that girl's right to equal protection, so we have a federal case.

LDI justified its campaign of harassment against children and their parents by classifying teen pregnancy as prima facie evidence of sexual assault by an adult predator. A report on teen pregnancy published by the Alan Guttmacher Institute [pdf link} tells a different and more factual story.

Two highly publicized studies--one by The Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), and one by researchers at the Urban Institute, published in 1996 and 1997, respectively--drew new attention to an old fact: Mothers
tend to be younger than fathers.
[T]he AGI study found that almost two-thirds of mothers aged 15-19 have partners who are 20 or older. However, the vast majority of these teen mothers are, at least legally, adults themselves; in 1997, more than six in 10 teens who gave birth were 18 or 19 years old. Moreover, while 15-19-year-old mothers usually have older partners, in many cases, the age difference is small; the AGI study showed that for four in 10 15-17-year-old mothers, the father is no more than two years older.

Indeed, the Urban Institute researchers found, only 8% of all births to 15-19-year-old women are to unmarried minors with a partner five or more years older.

Both reports conclude that clearly illegal situations are in fact unusual, and even more unusual among teenagers seeking abortion. All physicians and health care workers are mandated reporters of even the suspected abuse of a child. In Texas, licensed abortion facilities already are required to ensure that their staffs complete extra course training on identifying and reporting child abuse. The state's licensing rules already mandate that reports must be submitted to the state in all cases of sexual activity involving teenagers younger than age 14, and in all cases involving a 14-16 year-old patient whose male partner is her senior by more than three years. And of course parents must provide fully informed consent before any minor may have an abortion.

During LDI's 2002 campaign, I placed a call to the police department to ask about their response. A detective from the Child Abuse Unit answered my question with one of his own: "What do they want me to do? Come down there and arrest two 14 year-old kids for sexually abusing each other?"  Well . . . yes, that seems to have been exactly what LDI wanted. God forbid that the truth should stand in the way of a hot crusade.

In Kansas, Life Dynamics found an ally in Phill Kline. In Texas, Bob Talton wants to ensure a 13 year-old girl's "equal protection" under the law by granting the state police automatic access to tissue removed from her body, and by mandating that they perform DNA analysis for use as "evidence" -- on the apparent presumption that her parents cannot be trusted to protect her interests should she have an abortion, a choice that catapults her situation into what LDI calls "aggravated sexual assault."

Talton's HB 859 places no requirements upon a physician who provides a girl under 14 with prenatal care and delivers her child, should she choose to continue her pregnancy. In that circumstance, no law enforcement intervention is even suggested, let alone required by law. It does, however, carry criminal penalties for any doctor who fails to cooperate after providing her with abortion care.

Sec. 171.006.  REQUIRED TISSUE SAMPLING. (a) A physician who performs an abortion on a person who is younger than 14 years of age at the time of the abortion shall preserve fetal tissue extracted during the abortion. The physician shall submit the tissue to the Department of Public Safety or to a laboratory designated by the Department of Public Safety.
        (b)  The Department of Public Safety shall adopt rules prescribing:
              (1)  the amount and type of tissue to be preserved and submitted;
              (2)  procedures for the proper preservation of tissue for DNA testing and examination;
              (3)  procedures for documenting the chain of custody of the tissue for use as evidence;
              (4)  procedures for proper disposal of fetal tissue preserved under this section;
              (5)  a uniform reporting instrument to be used by a physician when submitting fetal tissue under this section that must include:
                    (A)  the name of the physician submitting the tissue;
                    (B)  the name and address of the person upon whom the abortion was performed; and
                    (C)  the name of the parent or legal guardian of the person upon whom the abortion was performed; and
              (6)  procedures for communication with law enforcement agencies regarding evidence and information obtained under this section.
(c)  A physician commits an offense if the physician violates this section or a rule adopted under this section. An offense under this subsection is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $10,000.

This year Texas legislators have introduced several bills focusing on the sexual abuse of children. Some of those could combine with bills such as Talton's to plunge young teenagers and their families into a legal nightmare. If so, it wouldn't be the first time that the tunnel vision of the Christian right's pet lawmakers had propelled them into a legislative train wreck.

David Gonzalez, lobbyist for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, warned Riddle and the committee of unintended consequences in the bill.

He said by redefining what constitutes a sexually violent offense against a child to include indecency with a child by contact, a 14-year-old could become a first degree felon by touching the chest, even over clothing, of a 13-year-old.

By doing so twice, a 14-year-old could become eligible for the death penalty, he suggested. ... (Actually, since the high court struck down the death penalty for minors, a 14-year-old might only be subjected to life in prison without parole ...)

Parents faced with the pregnancy of a daughter only 13 years old might think their family already has all the crisis it needs. And the family of a 14 year-old boy whose eighth-grade romance resulted in that pregnancy might think it has trouble enough already. With a state law mandating the processing of their children through the legal system as victim and perpetrator of a sex crime, they will find that their problems have barely begun.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And the alpha dogs of the Christian right think that would be just fine.

[Title image by Jane Birchum for the Austin Chronicle

Final image from Parent and Family Advocate]

The Austin Chronicle preserves "The Wisdom of Deacon Talton" on the subject of why gays and lesbians make bad parents.

Rep. Mike Villareal, D-San Antonio: Mr. Talton, why single out homosexuals and bisexuals?

[Rep. Robert Talton]: Well, there's some of us that believe that that's not the right kind of conduct that a child should have until he reaches the age of 18. Then they can make a decision on whether they accept that lifestyle or not.

MV: You're talking about the sexual orientation of the parent, not the child. ...

RT: Right. Of the foster parent, or the alleged foster parent. ... Some of us believe that's a learned behavior; you're not born that way. And so if it's a learned behavior, then if you're taught that that conduct is OK, then that's what they're gonna do. We know that it's a learned behavior on sex offenders ... same thing with this, it's a learned behavior. Same thing with pedophiles -- it's all a learned behavior.

by moiv on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 12:24:28 AM EST

I predict that if his bill gets to the floor, Representative Genius here is going to be getting a  large number of used tampons/ napkins in the mail. I wouldn't be surprised if a Kosack hasn't already started a campaign. And someone or other is going to show up in the capitol in costume as a used tampon (not too hard, white cylinder with red paint).

Note, I don't live in TX, I don't plan to do any of these things, but the Genius is just asking for a show, and I am sure a few students can mosey the few blocks to oblige.

by NancyP on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 05:57:47 PM EST

sale claims a few years ago, that went to Congress. The person making the allegation refused to swear under oath about his testimony, and the committee hearing was adjourned pronto.

by NancyP on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 06:00:39 PM EST
Canadian Joyce Arthur wrote a detailed and  comprehensive summary of the whole fiasco.

But the legend lives on as gospel truth among those who want to believe it.

by moiv on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 07:35:21 PM EST

What about cultures where it is not unusual, if not normal for a young woman to marry an older man?

We had a couple move to the Tampa Bay area from another country, where it is the norm for a young girl to marry an older man- in this case the girl was under 16 and the man was in his early 20's.  The government found out, arrested the man for child abuse, and put him on the sex offender list.

They were happily married, and both families were in favor of the relationship.

These people are so blindly ethnocentric that it is frustrating.  There are many different family structures, and they ALL work.

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 10:09:50 PM EST

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