The House overwhelmingly passed a bill Friday that protects children who may be victims of sexual abuse or forced abortion. Held Thursday evening on a procedural motion, House members approved the final measure Friday morning.
House Bill 16, also known as the Child Protection Act, requires mandatory reporting of alleged or suspected sexual abuse and places a time limit on reporting such abuse. The bill also requires that details of the alleged crime be reported.
During Bryant's term as lieutenant governor, the Mississippi Senate passed the Child Protection Act unanimously, but the measures, to Bryant's regret, always died in the House.
"This bill provides the necessary tools for law enforcement to fight crimes against children, and I appreciate the House passing this very important piece of legislation," Bryant said.
Under the Child Protection Act, certain persons must report every instance of alleged or suspected sexual abuse of a child by an adult. Such persons include health care practitioners, members of the clergy, teachers and childcare providers, film and processors and law enforcement officials.
Reports must be made within 48 hours of the suspected abuse being brought to the reporting party's attention. The legislation states that failure to report suspected abuse is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000, imprisonment in jail not more than one year or both.
The Child Protection Act further states that a physician who performs an abortion on a minor who is younger than 14 years of age must preserve a fetal tissue sample for DNA analysis. The sample will be submitted to the Bureau of Investigation or the Department of Public Safety for DNA testing to help determine the identity of the father. Failure of a physician to comply will constitute unprofessional conduct and will be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000, imprisonment in jail or both.
"The Child Protection Act sends a clear message that Mississippi will not tolerate such abuse and intends to pursue the criminal who preys on children," Bryant said.
House Bill 16 now continues to the Senate for review.