Abortion Clinics Hide Rape Cases, Episcopal Priest Contends
Wants AG to hold public meetings on the problem
A Morgan County Episcopal priest is pushing the state's top law enforcement official to crack down on abortion clinics that fail to report suspected cases of statutory rape.
Rev. James Henderson, a pro-life activist from Somerville, says Alabama clinics have "covered up" as many as 490 rapes in the past four years by not telling police about girls 16 or younger who have become pregnant by older men.
By law, doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, day care employees and members of the clergy must call authorities if they suspect a child has been abused or neglected. Those who don't can be fined $500 and sentenced to up to six months in jail.
Although Henderson did not cite specific instances of abortion clinics flouting the rules, he pointed to a study by a pro-life group called Life Dynamics that found adult men cause the vast majority of pregnancies in girls younger than 16.
He also referred to a report by the Alabama Center for Health Statistics showing that 37 girls under age 14 have had abortions in the state since 2001.
The fact an underage girl is pregnant ought to raise the suspicion of clinic employees and trigger the reporting requirement, he said.
"All we want is the truth on the table," Henderson said Thursday. "Even if there was one (rape) and the perpetrator is going free, it's one too many."
Henderson, a Charismatic Episcopal priest and member of the Alabama Alliance Against Abortion, recently presented Alabama Attorney General Troy King, a Republican, with a binder full of information he says proves his case. He also asked King to hold public meetings around the state to discuss the problem.
"I believe the people of Alabama would support your throwing the full moral and legal weight of your office behind this initiative," Henderson wrote in a follow-up letter to King.
Although King has not decided whether to call the meetings, he does plan to look into Henderson's complaint, said Chris Bence, the attorney general's communications director.
"Rev. Henderson's concerns are serious and will be given due consideration," Bence said Friday.
He said King plans to seek more information from the state Department of Public Health and Department of Human Resources, abortion clinics and other medical professionals.
Judy Bell, manager of Huntsville's Planned Parenthood office, disputed Henderson's statement that older men are responsible for most teen pregnancies.
"Their boyfriends are usually the same age or maybe a year older," Bell said Friday. "They're experimenting."
Although Planned Parenthood does not require patients to give the ages of their sex partners, Bell said she called Huntsville police investigator Glen Nunley when she found out a 15-year-old girl was involved with a man in his 20s. She keeps Nunley's phone number handy in case it happens again.
"We're here to obey the law," Bell said.
The state Board of Nursing and state Health Department conduct annual inspections of Planned Parenthood's nonprofit women's health clinics in Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery.
Posted by Editor at July 9, 2005 10:36 PM