More than half of cult teen girls pregnant or mothers

San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle:

More than half the teenage girls removed from a West Texas polygamist sect are either pregnant or have children, state officials said today.

Thirty-one of the 53 girls between the ages of 14 and 17 are either mothers or expectant mothers, Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the state's Health and Human Services Commission, said this afternoon.

A state district judge in San Angelo ordered into state custody all the children removed from the West Texas compound near Eldorado, which is run by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The Department of Family and Protective Services has upped its total count of the children removed by one since Friday, to 463, the Associated Press reported today.

The state alleges the sect marries underage girls to much older men - and essentially puts all the children at risk by exposing them to unlawful practices.

Texas law allows girls to marry at 16 or 17 only if they have parental consent or a court order. Children under 16 cannot marry unless there is a court order.

It was not immediately clear how many of the 31 girls cited by Goodman on Monday were 16 and under and how many 16-year-olds might have married with their parents' consent.

Earlier, the state’s 3rd Texas Court of Appeals refused to immediately intervene in the custody dispute between the state and parents of the children seized three weeks ago.

The court cited "insufficient information" to warrant granting emergency relief to attorneys representing 48 mothers who are followers of the church, a breakaway Mormon sect.

...

There are 27 girls between 14 and 17 and another 34 between 10 and 13. There are over 100 kids below the age of two. There are another 26 girls who have recently admitted they are under 18, but their age has not been given. These 26 originally said they were over 18. All of them have babies.

The Appeals court is going to give the trial court and the Child Protective Service make their case before they intervene. The court also canceled a hearing set for Tuesday. There is no mention of the status of the DNA test, but I think the results will be critical to this case.

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