A bill that would compel the clergy to report suspected child abuse has cleared its final legislative hurdle, but not without controversy. The measure also changes the rules so mandatory reporters would be required to report suspected sexual activity involving kids 13, 14 and 15 years of age. Senator Maggie Tinsman, a republican from Bettendorf, says the current law isn’t adequate because it requires reporting of questionable sexual activity of kids just 12 and under.Tinsman says she was appalled, because some of the greatest sexual abuse happens to kids who’re 13, 14 and 15. But critics like Senator Bill Dotzler, a democrat from Waterloo, say the bill will force teachers, school nurses and other so-called mandatory reporters to tell the cops when they find out teenagers are having sex. Dotzler says a 14 year old who engages in “heavy petting” with a 13 year old could be accused of sexual abuse. Senator Joel Bolkcom, a democrat from Iowa City, says it will “criminalize the fooling around between consenting 13 year olds or 14 year olds.” Bolkcom says all Senators can probably agree they don’t want teenagers engaged in sexual relations with their peers, but he says Senators need to be realistic about what goes on in junior highs and high schools. Senator Jack Hatch, a democrat from Des Moines, says antiabortion activists hope the bill forces Planned Parenthood to report to the cops whenever any girl under 16 comes in for the Pill or an abortion. Hatch says the bill’s an “embarrassment” and it’s being passed because one group hates another. Senator Ken Veenstra, a republican from Orange City, responded. Veenstra says the bill’s opponents tried to say the bill was about 12 to 15 year old girls, but he says the bill’s really about older men who are sexual predators. Veenstra says a survey of pregnant California teenagers found 71 percent of the fathers were adult men with a mean age of nearly 23. Veenstra says to vote ‘no’ on the bill would be a vote to protect sexual predators. The bill was initially drafted in response to the child abuse scandals that’ve rocked the Catholic Church, but Senator Herman Quirmbach, a democrat from Ames, says it’s a “self-delusion” to believe the bill would address the problem of priests who’ve been revealed as pedofiles. Quirmbach says no priest who’s already broken his vows and the law by engaging in sexual relations with a minor would be compelled to report that violation to the authorities. Supporters of the bill, though, say it may stop any church cover-up of such behavior, as has been alleged within the Catholic Church. The bill passed the Senate on a 33 to 12 vote and now goes to Governor Vilsack, and aides to the Governor say he’s still studying the legislation and hasn’t made up his mind whether he’ll sign or veto it.
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