RICHMOND, Va. — A conservative advocacy group is trying to find out whether health officials met what it says is a legal obligation to inform authorities about abortions on two 14-year-old girls.
The Family Foundation of Virginia says its concern was prompted by the state health department’s December 2012 inspection of the Roanoke Medical Center for Women. The inspector noted that the clinic failed to supply notarized parental consent forms for the two girls. Parental consent also was not obtained for a 16-year-old girl’s abortion, according to a copy of the inspection report obtained by The Associated Press.
Victoria Cobb, president of the anti-abortion Family Foundation, said physicians and state health officials are required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect to social services for investigation. She said that because “carnal knowledge” of a 13- or 14-year-old child is illegal, the cases of the two 14-year-olds should have been reported to police as well.
The organization filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking documentation that the cases were reported. The state health department responded that it had no relevant records.
“All we want to do is find out did anybody follow the law here,” Family Foundation spokesman Chris Freund said Friday.
Jill Abbey, administrator of the Richmond Medical Center for Women, which is affiliated with the Roanoke clinic, said the reporting law is “somewhat unclear” and that pregnancies of 13- and 14-year-old girls are not universally reported.
“If a case was clearly an abuse situation, that’s one thing,” she said. “Teenager-to-teenager is a little bit different. We certainly take sexual abuse very seriously.”
She said she did not know whether the cases referenced in the inspection report were reported to law enforcement or social services.
The attorney general’s office declined to comment but will be providing some guidance to health officials. Health department spokeswoman Maribeth Brewster said interim state Health Commissioner Dr. Marissa J. Levine, who has been on the job less than two months, has asked Attorney General Mark Herring for an official advisory opinion on the department’s responsibilities on the matter.
Abbey said she finds it “curious” that the Family Foundation waited until after Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe was in office to raise the issue from a more than year-old report. The inspection was done during the previous Republican administration, which Victoria Cobb’s husband Matt served as deputy secretary of health and human resources.
Freund said the organization initially zeroed in on the absence of parental consent, but since its officers are not “mandatory reporters” of child abuse, they did not immediately recognize the law enforcement issue.
“The medical personnel at the abortion center and at the department are mandatory reporters and should have recognized it,” he said.
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