In what is being seen as a victory for an abortion rights group, a federal judge in the United States has ruled that abortion clinic doctors and other professionals are not required under Kansas law to report report consensual sexual activity of those under 16 to authorities.
The ruling invalidates the 2003 opinion of the state's attorney general, Phill Kline, an anti-abortion advocate.
The attorney general`s opinion was seen by many as an attempt to restrict abortions in the state.
Judge J. Thomas Marten in Wichita says the reporting of consensual sex among such teenagers would discourage them from seeking medical care and overwhelm state authorities.
The ruling will be a setback for anti-abortion campaigners and a blow to attorney general Kline's contention that a 1982 Kansas law requiring doctors, teachers and others to alert the state and law enforcement about potential child abuse covers consensual sex between minors and applies to abortion clinics, health professionals and teachers.
Judge Marten ruled that a plain reading of the Kansas law gives health care providers discretion to determine whether there is reason to suspect a child has been injured as a result of sexual abuse.
The attorney general's office had contended the law required mandatory reporting because sex is inherently harmful to underage children; the age of consent in Kansas is 16.
The judge said health professionals must be able to work in confidence to appropriately treat young patients, and the case was not about promoting sexual promiscuity among underage persons.
He said the law recognizes that sexual activity among underage persons occurs, and that any such activity that injures the minor will be reported.
The action was brought by the advocacy group Center for Reproductive Rights who sued in 2003 on behalf of a group of obstetricians and gynecologists, nurses, psychologists, social workers, a family practice doctor, and a sex education teacher.
Kline and Sedgwick County prosecutor Nola Foulston, as representative of all county and district attorneys in Kansas were named as defendants.