PHOENIX — A judge found Planned Parenthood negligent for failing to report to Child Protective Services an abortion performed on a 13-year-old girl in foster care — a case abortion opponents say is a key example of the importance of parental consent laws.
Since 2000 in Arizona, girls under 18 have been required to get parental or guardian consent to have an abortion unless they seek court approval, which judges generally are obliged to grant.
The girl's case dates back to 1998, when the teen went for an abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic accompanied by her 23-year-old foster brother, with whom she was having a sexual relationship.
Planned Parenthood didn't notify authorities until the girl returned six months later for a second abortion, court records show.
Lawsuits filed on behalf of the teen contend the Glendale girl was subjected to continued molestation and sexual exploitation because the abortion provider and others didn't notify police or CPS of her first abortion on Nov. 10, 1998. The girl's attorney also argues that Planned Parenthood's gross negligence led to her second abortion six months later.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Cathy Holt ruled last month that the abortion provider was negligent in failing to notify authorities when the girl first came in.
State law requires medical providers to report all cases of suspected sexual abuse or sexual conduct with a minor, except in cases in which two minors 14 or older have consensual sex. A girl younger than 14 is not old enough to consent under the law, and the girl was 13 when she became pregnant.
The Associated Press is withholding her name because she is a minor.
"It's a real tragedy," said attorney and Arizona Right to Life President John Jakubczyk, who is representing the girl's natural mother. "(Planned Parenthood) knew what was going on. It's heartbreaking, and none of it had to happen."
Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Beth Meyer-Lohse said she could not discuss the case because other issues — including allegations that the abortions constitute assault and battery — are still being litigated.
In 2001, Meyer-Lohse said the organization notified authorities of five to 10 cases of suspected sexual abuse every month. She refused to say whether those numbers have since changed.
Jakubczyk and other pro-lifers point to this case as an example of why parental consent laws are necessary. Those laws were not in place when the girl in the case received abortions.
But the lawsuit accuses her foster parents, Donald and Patricia Stevens, CPS, and Arizona Baptist Children's Services — responsible for monitoring some foster children for CPS — of failing to protect the girl from repeated sexual abuse.
The Stevens declined to comment about the case because of the pending litigation.
A psychological analysis performed in July showed the girl was immature for her age and is emotionally scarred by the relationship.
She "was probably functioning at about a third-grade level of maturity when her 23-year-old foster brother began having sex with her," the analysis says.
In court papers, Planned Parenthood defended not reporting the abortion because "it does not follow that the negligence caused damages," and "no reporting would have been required if she had been eight months older."
Because the girl, now 17, is a ward of the state, she was appointed an attorney who filed a civil lawsuit in August 2001 on her behalf. Despite the language in the lawsuit, the girl's court appointed attorney, James Hart, said rape was not suspected.
"There is no indication that (the sex) was anything but consensual," he said.
In fact, he said clinic workers didn't know the girl was having a sexual relationship with her foster brother Shawn Stevens, the Stevens' natural son who also lived in the home. The girl told clinicians she was impregnated by a 14-year-old teen, records show.
When Planned Parenthood notified CPS after the second abortion in 1999, police arrested Stevens. He was charged with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor and was sentenced in 2000 to five years in prison and lifetime probation.
Shawn Stevens declined to be interviewed for this story.
CPS spokesman Fernando Vendor said Donald and Patricia Stevens are no longer licensed foster parents.
Hart said the lawsuit never alleges the Stevens knew about the affair, only that they should have known.
Records show that in 1995, the girl, then 10, and her two younger brothers were placed in the Stevens' care because the children were neglected.
— Arizona Daily Sun