FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2001
Contact: Rep. Galen Fox
The State House Republican Caucus has released the following statement:
DEMOCRATS MUST OVERRIDE THEIR GOVERNOR'S VETO OF AGE OF CONSENT BILL
VETO SHOWS GOVERNOR HAS A LOT TO LEARN
ABOUT WHAT'S HAPPENING IN HIS STATE
Today Governor Cayetano vetoed a bill designed to protect young children from sexual predators. His objections don't match up to reality. Cayetano said that a nineteen year old who "exercises poor judgement" by engaging in sex with a fourteen year-old could be prosecuted. The Governor should be reminded that according to the law, a nineteen-year-old is an adult, must be treated as an adult, and consequently, should live up to the responsibilities of an adult.
Hawaii has the lowest age of sexual consent in the nation. This fact has many negative consequences. In addition to the unprosecuted statutory rape of fourteen and fifteen year olds, these consequences include: teenage prostitution, drug addiction, pregnancy and abortions, venereal infections including AIDS, and the additional consequences of homeless teenage mothers, drug-addicted teenage mothers, sick teenage mothers, and teenage mothers still attending school.
Democrats in the State Legislature have to face up to their collective responsibility to Hawaii's young people. If they fail to override the Governor's veto, they are telling Hawaii, "We agree with Governor Cayetano that it is ok for adults to have sex with fourteen and fifteen year olds."
The Governor is way off base on this important issue. He cites those who argue that making sex a crime would cause teen-agers not to seek help for family planning, transmitted diseases, HIV testing or prenatal care.
The Governor should take a hard look at what is really happening in Hawaii. The state of Hawaii has the third highest teenage pregnancy rate of any state in the union, following California and Nevada. The reported pregnancy rate for 15 year olds in Hawaii is 21.8 pregnancies per 1000 females of that age group.
A 1998 study by the Hawaii Department of Health revealed that there were 242 pregnancies reported by girls fifteen and under. Of those, 122 resulted in live births and 114 resulted in abortions. While the age of the fathers in this report is not revealed, an American Journal of Public Health study found that fathers of children born by junior-high mothers averaged 6.7 years older than the girls. And, that men over age 20 fathered five times more births to junior high school-aged girls than did junior high school-aged boys.
Another national report found that six of 10 girls who had sex before age 15 were coerced by males an average of six years their senior. This seems to indicate that no longer should we just consider raising the age of consent to 16 but that we should be severely increasing the penalties for those adult males who have been taking advantage of persons far younger than themselves.
When Georgia raised its age of consent from 14 to 16, they also increased to 10 years the minimum prison sentence for men aged 21 and older convicted of statutory rape. Florida voted in 1996 to make impregnation of a minor younger than age 16 by a male aged 21 or older a reportable form of child abuse -- a felony.
Teen-age pregnancy is a great concern for parents of 15-year-old daughters but the psychological and social impacts of sexual predators on our children is worse. Some predators seduce children into drugs, then into prostitution to support them, and eventually toss them out on the street when they are sick or pregnant.
The Governor, who vetoed this bill, once blamed the victims not the predators by saying, "given the world today, it is not easy to tell who is 14, 15, or 16 years old".