In reference to my previous post, Tammy asked: "So what are your thoughts on that?" The following is what happens when I don't have anything to do on a Saturday evening. ;-)
The state has a legitimate responsibility to protect and improve the general welfare of its citizens; we place special trust in the government (just as we do in doctors, teachers, nurses, and social workers alike) to protect minors and the disabled from abuse and harm at the hands of others.
I feel Kline's interpretation of Kansas law comes from a desire to broaden and expand the state's role in 'protecting' children using the mandate described above. Of course, he also wins political points with his puritanical base by saying sex between 15 year-olds is an out-and-out CRIME and should be REPORTED and PUNISHED.
But whether you think 10th graders are emotionally mature enough to handle intimate relationships or not, the way in which Kline is pursuing this issue, in my opinion, causes more problems than it solves.
Realize, first, that 'young love' will not die overnight, no matter what a "stuffy old attorney" does in Topeka. Kids who want to have sex will keep having sex, pure and simple.
I respect part
of Kline's motivation - it's certainly true that some 15 year-olds are entirely unready for the type of relationship he's trying to prevent. But then again, so are a fair number of 23 year-olds. The question I'm left asking is: what makes 15 and 16 year-olds so very different?
about similar legislation that was pending in Missouri's House last year. I think it's interesting to note that in the Show-Me State, 15 year-olds are assumed to be mature enough to have sexual relationships. This points to the very arbitrariness of the cut-off age in the law which Kline is seeking to expand - I highly doubt it is steeped in much research pertaining to adolescent psychology; more likely, I imagine the statute dates back to a long-dead legislator trying to make it a crime for the neighbor boy to "disrespect" his teenage daughter. (But that's just a guess on my part.)
Getting to the heart of the issue, what Kline is doing, in my opinion, is tantamount to governmental paternalism - "the fatherland knows best." This is my main problem with the way he is approaching the law. He is seeking to replace the professional discretion of doctors, nurses, social workers, and teachers (those people who know these supposed criminals
best) with a one-size-fits-all Big Brother solution. Personally, I place more trust in a family physician to do the right thing than I do in a politician, but that's beside the point.
I think it makes sense to require those who work with minors to report suspected physical and sexual abuse to the proper authorities, but forcing these adults to reveal consensual sexual relationships
minors under 16 who are roughly the same age is quite different, in my mind.
As I said before, I think Kline creates more problems than he solves. For one thing, there's the cost to the taxpayers of the state of Kansas. Missouri's initiative (which encompasses only adolescents under the age of fifteen
) was estimated by the state's Department of Social Services to cost an additional $269,000 per fiscal year because additional staff would be needed to screen calls to the child abuse hot line.
But there is yet a bigger drawback. By forcing adults to essentially "snitch" on the adolescents who trust them enough to turn to them for advice and counsel, he leaves minors with very few avenues for gaining information about what it means to be sexually active. If I'm a pediatrician, and a fifteen year-old girl asks me about safe sex, what am I supposed to do? I could give her information about the risks and benefits of using condoms and/or going on birth control, but then I guess I'd have to turn around and phone the police - as I could reasonably suspect her of having "sexual contact" before Phill Kline approves.
So what happens then? Sex among adolescents won't stop, but the dialogue about it will (which, perhaps, is exactly what Kline would like most of all).
In a day and age where Republicans seemingly have no objections to sending 18 year-olds off to war, to kill-and-be-killed, it baffles me how uptight they become when all a person wants to do is love... and be loved.