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Copyright (c) 2010 Kansas Law Review, Inc.
The University of Kansas Law Review

Article: Private Oppression: How Laws That Protect Privacy Can Lead to Oppression

January, 2010

The University of Kansas Law Review

58 Kan. L. Rev. 415


Teri Dobbins Baxter*


I. Introduction
Americans value privacy. Indeed, the notion that certain aspects of private life should be protected from government intrusion is incorporated into many provisions of the U.S. Constitution. Other federal laws and many state laws also protect the privacy of individuals and groups. Such rights as the freedom to practice one's chosen religion, the freedom to raise children in the manner deemed best by parents, and the right to marry are all privacy rights that are firmly established in the United States. However, these privacy rights are not absolute. Laws protecting children and other vulnerable individuals from abuse and neglect may trump privacy rights. But laws protecting the privacy of individuals or groups can make it difficult for government officials to enforce laws designed to protect those at risk.

These problems have been studied in the context of violence against women and children, although the focus has largely been on the status of children or the public versus private nature of family relationships. 1 In contrast, this Article will identify laws that protect the privacy of individuals and groups (particularly families) as well as the laws designed to protect the health, dignity, and well-being of individuals. This Article will then examine how the enforcement of privacy laws can deprive individuals of the protection of other laws, including laws that guarantee individual rights and freedoms.

These issues will be viewed through the lens of the controversial case of the children taken into state custody from the Yearning ...
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