Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Finally, Texas cites specifics

Texas officials have finally put forward some specifics about widespread sexual abuse by the polygamist cult:
More than half of the teenage girls seized from a West Texas polygamist sect are pregnant, have children or both, state officials said Monday.
Thirty-one of the 53 girls ages 14 through 17 are either mothers or expectant mothers, said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the state's Health and Human Services Commission.
A handful of the girls are both, said Darrell Azar, a spokesman for the Department of Family and Protective Services. . . .
There also is one pregnant 13-year-old, "but most are in the 15 and 16 range at the time they conceived," Azar said. "Some teens have multiple children.
"It shows you a pretty distinct pattern, that it was pretty pervasive," he said.
Pervasive indeed -- a 58 percent pregnancy rate among girls 14-17, even excluding those instances of girls who were pregnant more than once.

If, as the state alleges, most of these girls were forced into illegal polygamous unions with much older men who already had other wives, then public sympathy for the FLDS mothers should evaporate rather quickly. After all, if state officials had not intervened, many of the FLDS girls who are now 10, 11 and 12 would have faced a similar fate within just a few years.

Questions occur: Were these FLDS girls delivering their babies at the ranch? Surely, local hospitals would have said something about a rash of teenage mothers checking in. But pregnancies among such young girls are often attended by complications and difficult deliveries, so how would the FLDS deal with such problems in a midwife situation?

Texas will now have to prove paternity of the teenage mothers' children, and try to get witnesses among the FLDS who will testify as to exactly who was married to who, how the marriages were arranged, etc. I'd expect at least two dozen of the men in the cult -- and perhaps even some women who abetted this pattern -- to be indicted on various charges.

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