An Arizona court ruling just made it potentially illegal to change a baby’s diapers…wait, WHAT?
Yes, you read that right. A very oddly worded State Supreme Court ruling has just made it potentially illegal to bathe or change a baby’s diapers. Grab your coffee, because this gets confusing.
TRIGGER WARNING for sexual molestation and child abuse. Please do not read further if you feel this will upset you.
A Supreme Court ruling just changed the rules.
As Slate reports, The Arizona Supreme Court just heard a case about sexual molestation in which the accused abuser was asked by a lower court to prove that he had no sexual intent toward the victim when he kissed and touched her. As part of their ruling, the court ruled that any sexual contact with a minor is molestation.
Which of course makes total sense. Strong laws protecting minors are essential.
BUT….the Court defined “sexual content” as:
"any direct or indirect touching [...] of any part of the genitals, anus or female breast by any part of the body or by any object or causing a person to engage in such contact."
So here’s the issue:
As the dissenting opinion pointed out, this means that "parents and other caregivers who have changed an infant’s soiled diaper or bathed a toddler" can be charged with "a class 2 or 3 felony."
Still worse, since the Supreme Court upheld that a defendant in any case of this kind has to prove their own innocence (instead of the state proving their guilt), parents and caregivers would have to go through prolonged court battles to prove that they had no sexual intent when they bathed their child or changed their child’s diaper.
Fordham Law’s Professor John Pfaff also pointed out an even scarier implication of the Supreme Court’s ruling:
Of course, we need the strongest possible laws to protect children from sexual abuse. No question.
But those laws have got to be worded carefully so that totally normal, healthy parents and families can’t be ripped apart by technicalities, threats, or ambiguous meanings. Let’s hope the Arizona Supreme Court considers clarifying their word choice before any innocent families are harmed.