Your DNA Is Mine, Little Girl
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."
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?"
According 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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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]
Your DNA Is Mine, Little Girl | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)
Your DNA Is Mine, Little Girl | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)