Attempted child abuse cover-up not news?

Planned Parenthood of Indiana has been in the national news lately. The abortion provider's offering of holiday gift certificates in $25 increments has received the most attention. However, the more important story has the organization appearing to have given council to someone on how to break the state's law on reporting child sex-abuse.

The Washington Times on Thursday covered the existence of a video that has been making rounds lately that depicts a Planned Parenthood employee advising and encouraging someone to essentially break Indiana's laws regarding the reporting of child sex-abuse. To my knowledge, this has unfortunately not been covered locally but has received attention on cable news and in local blogs. That is frustrating as a resident Hoosier, particularly since Indiana has had a sad history of poor child social services and a tendency for these issues to be overlooked until a child is hurt or dies in a preventable situation.

Here are the basics of the Times article:

Planned Parenthood of Indiana has suspended a nurse after the release of an undercover videotape showing her coaching a supposed 13-year-old on how to duck Indiana's laws about parental-consent on abortion and the reporting of child sex-abuse.

The videotape shows Lila Rose, the president of a university pro-life group and a brunette, posing as a blonde 13-year-old girl named "Brianna" and telling the Planned Parenthood nurse at the clinic in Bloomington, Ind., that she is pregnant by a 31-year-old man.

"I am supposed to report [you] to Child Protective Services," says the nurse on the videotape, though assuring "Brianna" she will not do so if she can tell a plausible different story.

"I didn't hear the age. I don't want to know the age," the nurse says at a later point on the tape.

The big issue that isn't receiving much coverage right now is that in Indiana and many states, a mere attempt to commit a crime can be the basis of criminal liability. In other words, the nurse's attempt to break the law by not reporting a statutory rape could be found to be a criminal act even though it would have been impossible due to the fact that the girl was not underage.

The Times made some solid inquiries as to whether there would be an criminal investigation, but that does not seem to be the case:

A city spokesman said Thursday that the Bloomington City Police is not investigating the clinic or the nurse for possibly violating the statutory-rape notification law, but is beefing up security around the facility to protect it from a possible backlash.

'There's no investigation taking place, but they have stepped up patrols around the area,' said Danny Lopez, communications director for the City of Bloomington. Patrols have been stepped up in case anybody has a strong reaction to the situation, but he said there have been no problems.

Here is a little context about Bloomington, Indiana: it is one of the more liberal cities in the country, and certainly in the state. The town is also home to Indiana University, which has a reputation as one of the biggest partying universities in the country.

But back to the main subject. A common way law enforcement catch child predators is to have an adult pose as a child on Internet chat boards. The predator is lead to believe that the adult is a minor, a sting is set up, an arrest is made, and the predator is charged with attempting to commit child abuse. The law on attempted crimes does not care that it would have been impossible for a crime to be committed due to the age of individual. The law punishes the criminal mind.

The same criminal law principles could apply in this situation, but it seems that that won't be the case due to the prosecutor's discretion. However, I should note that the city does not decide who to prosecute in Indiana. That job goes to the county prosecutor, who is elected by the residents of the county.

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Ironically, the day after The Times had exclusive coverage on this video, the state's major newspaper The Indianapolis Star had coverage of that days old issue of Planned Parenthood giving out gift certificates for Christmas. The coverage isn't terrible, but the lead had issues that made me cringe:

For the folks at Planned Parenthood, it is a creative way to help ensure that women receive important health services at a time when money is tight. For members of Right to Life, it is a wildly inappropriate idea that is an affront to their Christian beliefs.

For starters, those against abortion do not necessarily base their beliefs in their Christian faith. Many non-Christians find abortion offensive to their beliefs, as do many Muslims and people of other faiths. And secondly, as you can see in the above video, even the fairly liberal Daily Show found the idea less than tasteful. And if he hasn't reminded you enough, the host Jon Stewart is Jewish.

Sadly, criticizing Indiana news media right now, particularly The Star, is difficult due to the recent rash of Gannet lay-offs. As my local newspaper's news staff continues to be thinned out, I wonder at times how the hard-working journalists continue to charge forward covering the community. There have been some shining examples of excellent coverage of religion and moral issues in The Star, but unfortunately that has not been the case here.

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