Democratic Senator Proposes Law to End the Parental Rights of Rapists in Maryland

Republicans continue to show us just how inept and barbaric they are.  No matter how many courses on how to talk to women they take, leave it to a Republican to pontificate on the “beauty” of rape.  One could argue that they are slowly evolving in the sense that at least they are ready to acknowledge the biological fact that women can get pregnant as a result of rape.

Currently, Maryland and 30 other states afford rapists full parental rights under the law.

Sponsored by Senator James Raskin,  The Rape Survivor Family Protection Act, will bring an end to the nightmare that too many women (5% of rape victims of child bearing age) and their child are forced to endure in the name of protecting a rapist’s parental rights. The proposed bill has 29 co-sponsors.

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As The Cecil Daily points out, a previous bill like this one passed through the Senate in the 2013 and 2014 sessions.  However, the House of Delegates versions died in the House Judiciary Committee without being voted on. Let’s hope for the rape survivors and their children in Maryland, this time the bill becomes law.

The bill requires a court hearing with 20 days of the mother’s request to terminate the parental rights of her alleged rapist.

There is a concession to those who fail to recognize that rape is NOT just another method of conception in that the law applies the “clear and convincing” evidence standard.  That means rape victims will have to apply the same standards that are used in other cases that seek to terminate parental rights.

In other words, for the purpose of terminating a rapist’s parental rights, there is no distinction between rapists and parents who conceived a child together with the consent of the other parent.

Of course, that still doesn’t go far enough for the “rape is just another method of conception” crowd.

The government relations director for the public defender’s office claimed: ”Both the standard of proof and the standard of evidence that’s being proposed by this bill is less than what is required in our criminal justice system.”

Well yeah, perhaps because the criminal justice standard isn’t applied in other parental termination cases, including the majority that involve crimes like child abuse and child neglect.  To suggest that there must be a criminal justice standard in this instance, in fact, calls for a higher standard of proof to terminate the parental rights of a rapist than a parent who is alleged to have committed a different crime.

The suggestion that women seeking to terminate the parental rights of her rapist should have to meet a higher standard than other cases of parental termination involving alleged criminal acts is another consequence of rape culture.

Rape is the only crime in which the victim is put on trial, which in part, explains why relatively few rapes are reported. Moreover, rape is the only crime in which the victim is all too often made to feel guilty or ashamed for being victimized, while the criminal is defended.  In fact, rape is the only crime in which the victim faces outright hostility from third parties under the illusion that SHE ruined HIS life. It’s the only crime where there is a presumption by some (most notably in the Republican Party) that the victim lied or somehow deserved it.  It’s the one crime that the Party of “law and order” not only persists in claiming that it isn’t “really” a crime but goes on to reward the crime by recognizing the rapist as a parent with all the rights (but none of the responsibilities) that entails.

When a rape results in pregnancy, rape is also the only crime in which it is possible for the criminal to blackmail their victim into not reporting the crime. Think Progress wrote about Shauna Prewitt’s experience in this regard back in 2013.

Prewitt was speaking from personal experience. She made headlines last year when she wrote an open letter to Todd Akin — who became infamous during the 2012 election cycle for claiming that women cannot be impregnated from a “legitimate rape” — about becoming pregnant after being raped. As she pursued charges against her rapist months later, he suddenly filed for custody rights over her daughter, sending her into a long and expensive court battle.

Prewitt when on to study law and write a paper on the subject for the Georgetown Law Journal in which she describes the life sentence that rape survivors and their child endures when, under the law, rape is treated as just another method of conception.

The reality is that rape is a crime.  Almost 5% of rape victims who are of child bearing years get pregnant as a result of rape.  These survivors of rape and their children deserve better than having forced legal ties to a violent criminal.  They shouldn’t have to meet higher standards than victims of other crimes be it within the criminal justice system or when seeking to terminate parental rights when the crime in question is rape.

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