31 FLDS teen girls have been pregnant

April 28, 2008 2:49:04 PM PDT
More than half the teen girls taken from a polygamist compound in west Texas either are pregnant or have children, state officials said Monday.A total of 53 girls between the ages of 14 and 17 are in state custody after a raid 3½ weeks ago at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado. Of those girls, 31 have children or are pregnant, said Child Protective Services spokesman Darrell Azar.

"It shows you a pretty distinct pattern, that it was pretty pervasive," he said.

State officials took custody of all 463 children at the ranch controlled by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, saying a pattern of teen girls forced into underage "spiritual" marriages and sex with much older men created an unsafe environment for the sect's children.

Under Texas law, children under the age of 17 cannot generally consent to sex with an adult. A girl can get married with her parent's permission at 16, but none of these girls are believed to have legal marriages under state law.

A call seeking comment from FLDS spokesman Rod Parker was not immediately returned.

The state has come under criticism for sweeping all the children, including nursing infants and teen boys, into foster care when only teen girls were in imminent danger of sexual abuse.

No one has been charged since the raid, which was prompted by a series of calls to a domestic abuse hotline, purportedly from a 16-year-old forced into a marriage recognized only by the sect with a man three times her age.

On Monday, CPS also revised its total count of children in state custody to 463, up one from Friday. Azar said the change resulted from finally getting the children out of the San Angelo Coliseum and into foster facilities around the state, where they were able to get a more accurate count.

Of those 463 children, 250 were girls and 213 were boys.

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