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California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill dubbed by critics as “The Pedophile Protection Act.”

Authored by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, the new law drastically reduces requirements for mandatory reporting of the known or suspected sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children.

Opponents, who are urging constituents to contact the governor, also say it creates a loophole for abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood, to be exempted from reporting statutory rape, molestation and sexual abuse and gives molesters greater opportunity to be involved with the caregiving of children.

In addition, the new law changes the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act’s definition of “sexual assault” to exclude consensual oral copulation, sodomy and sexual penetration between two minors who are both 14 years or older.

Richard D. Ackerman, vice-president of legal affairs for the Pro-Family Law Center, and a survivor of severe physical and sexual abuse, has called the bill a “reprehensible act.”

Under existing criminal law, anyone who regularly comes into contact with children is required to report an instance in which there is reason to believe a child has been molested or abused, Ackerman points out.

Typical mandatory reporters include pastors, priests, church volunteers, teachers, school volunteers, and medical personnel.

But the new law eliminates mandatory reporting for anyone who can be characterized as a “volunteer.”

That means a Sunday school teacher, for example, would not be required to report her knowledge of a pastor’s molestation of children.

Ackerman, while working for the United States Justice Foundation, persuaded the California Attorney General’s office to issue a written opinion to the California Medical Board that affirmed the requirement of reporting for anyone who comes into regular contact with children as part of professional duties.

The report, following a petition by more than 10,000 people, presented evidence that Planned Parenthood had seen over 30,000 children in California, but not one instance of reporting to law enforcement could be found.

State-required demographic data provided by Planned Parenthood to California demonstrated that the volunteers and paid staff of Planned Parenthood had seen children ages 6 and under for sexually transmitted disease treatment.

Ackerman says the new law seeks to make unavailable any reports of abuse, even if the reports are redacted.

Schwarzenegger recently has signed other bills that have angered activists on the right, including one that gives special rights to cross-dressers and transsexuals and requires health insurance companies to “provide registered domestic partner coverage equal to that provided to spouses.”

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