COMMENTS: Making Babies

All three networks followed up on yesterday's mass removal of children by Texas welfare authorities from the fundamentalist Mormon Yearning for Zion ranch near San Angelo. A further 15 children were taken into custody, making the total 416. "Resources will be stretched," ABC's Mike von Fremd (embargoed link) understated, as each child needs an attorney and a court-appointed guardian. The affidavit detailing an original complaint of abuse by the 16-year-old seventh wife of polygamist Dale Barlow was unsealed. The girl, now pregnant for a second time, complained of beatings, rapes and broken ribs. CBS' Hari Sreenivasan reported that Barlow is believed to be on the run in Arizona. The response to that call led welfare investigators to find "other girls who appeared to be minors and pregnant," according to NBC's Don Teague. They alleged it was a "widespread pattern" on the ranch that girls were "required to engage in sexual activity for the purposes of having children" as soon as the elders determined that girls had "reached childbearing age, approximately 13 to 14 years old."

As venal as this would be, if proven, it is still no explanation for why Texas took all the children, including boys and pre-pubescent girls into custody, not just those teenage girls at risk of forced procreation. ABC's von Fremd claimed the action halted the abuse of "perhaps hundreds of young women"--which must be inaccurate. Of the 416 minors taken into custody, surely a minority would be post-pubescent females. Perhaps von Fremd was thinking of the children's mothers, who were not in care of the state but accompanied the youngsters.


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