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Alan Dershowitz defends op-ed calling for lower age of sexual consent: 'should not be as high as 17 or 16'
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Alan Dershowitz defends op-ed calling for lower age of sexual consent: 'should not be as high as 17 or 16'

Not everyone was a fan of this take

Attorney Alan Dershowitz on Twitter defended a resurfaced 1997 op-ed in which he called statutory rape an "outdated concept" and advocated for lowering the age of consent.

The issue began with a profile in the New Yorker on Dershowitz, which shined light on the more than two decades old column. In light of Dershowitz's connections to sex offender and accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, some of the excerpts from the column stood out.

However, Dershowitz did not shy away from his 1997 stance after being called out by former White House lawyer Richard Painter.

"I stand by the constitutional (not moral) argument I offered in my controversial oped: if a 16 year old has the constitutional right to have an abortion without state or parental interference, how could she not have the constitutional right to engage in consensual sex?" Dershowitz wrote. "I challenge my readers to distinguish the cases, as a matter of constitutional law. I did not suggest that it is moral to have sex with a 16 year old, but rather that the issue presents a constitutional conundrum worthy of discussion.

"I also pointed out that, statutory rape laws are applied quite selectively and often against young teenagers," Dershowitz continued. "That's why I also say there are Romeo and Juliet exceptions. Lets debate not name call."

What did he write in 1997?

Some of Dershowitz's comments in the op-ed have not aged particularly well.

"Based on demographic criteria, the age of consent should be lowered," Dershowitz wrote in 1997. "It certainly should not be as high as 17 or Reasonable people can disagree over whether it should be as low as 14. Fifteen would seem like an appropriate compromise."

Dershowitz also used abortion rights as a reason why the age of consent should be lowered.

"But the Supreme Court's recognition of a young woman's rights to choose abortion—without interference from her parents or the state—suggests a degree of autonomy that seems inconsistent with making it a felony to have sex with a mature, consenting 16-year-old," Dershowitz wrote.

While it's clear what Dershowitz is saying, one might argue that his logic would be better employed in the other direction, to conclude that 16-year-olds should not be getting abortions, rather than arguing for why adults should be legally allowed to have sex with children younger than age 16.

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