One of the hundreds of young polygamist-sect members taken into state custody gave birth Tuesday to a healthy boy while child welfare officials, state troopers and fellow sect members stood watch outside the maternity ward.
"The boy is healthy and the mother is doing well," Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the state Child Protective Services, said of the noontime birth at Central Texas Medical Center.
The mother is "younger than 18," Crimmins said, and will remain with her new son in a nearby foster-care facility until a formal custody hearing will determine the pair's fate sometime before June 5. Crimmins declined to give any other details about the girl or where she and the baby would stay.
The girl's mother was present for the birth, but Crimmins said he didn't know who alerted her that her daughter was in labor.
Rod Parker, a spokesman for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a renegade Mormon sect, contends the girl is 18. State officials have the girl on a list of minors taken into state custody.
Two armed state troopers and at least one person wearing the shirt of a Department of Family and Protective Services worker stood outside the maternity ward. A woman wearing the FLDS's trademark pastel prairie dress and upswept braided hair sat calmly in the nearby waiting room. All declined to comment, as did a woman who said she was the girl's attorney.
Underage girls having children
State officials raided the FLDS's Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado on April 3. They took custody of 463 children on the belief that the sect's practice of underage and polygamous spiritual marriages endangered the children.
A number of girls first listed as adults were reclassified as minors as Child Protective Services, a division of Family and Protective Services, moved the children last week from a mass shelter in San Angelo to foster care facilities around the state, including some near San Marcos, in central Texas.
On Monday, CPS announced that almost 60 percent of the underage girls living on the Eldorado ranch either have children or are pregnant.
Of the 53 girls between the ages of 14 and 17 who are in state custody, 31 either have given birth or are expecting, Azar said.
"It shows you a pretty distinct pattern, that it was pretty pervasive," he said.
Under Texas law, children under the age of 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult. A girl can get married with parental permission at 16, but none of these girls is believed to have a legal marriage under state law.
Church officials have denied that any children were abused at the ranch and say the state's actions are a form of religious persecution.
Civil-liberties groups and lawyers for the children have criticized the state for sweeping all the children, from nursing infants to teen boys, into foster care when only teen girls are alleged to have been sexually abused.
No charges since raid
No one has been charged since the raid, which was prompted by a series of calls to a domestic abuse hotline, purportedly from a 16-year-old forced into a marriage recognized only by the sect with a man three times her age. That girl has not been found, and authorities are investigating whether the call was a hoax.
On Monday, CPS also revised its total count of children in state custody to 463, up one from Friday. Azar said the change resulted from finally getting the children out of the San Angelo Coliseum and into foster facilities around the state, where they were able to get a more accurate count.
Of those 463 children, 250 are girls and 213 are boys.
The sect, which broke from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints more than a century ago, believes polygamy brings glorification in heaven. Its leader, Warren Jeffs, is revered as a prophet. Jeffs was convicted last year in Utah of forcing a 14-year-old girl into marriage with an older cousin.