Success! Maryland Eliminates Rapists’ Parental Rights

The state of Maryland can finally rejoice in knowing that women impregnated by rapists no longer have to co-parent with the rapists. On Tuesday, Governor Larry Hogan signed a law that allows rape survivors to request to have their rapists’ parental rights terminated.

Previously, tens of thousands of Care2 members had signed a petition encouraging the state legislature to make it a law. Maryland lawmakers have finally listened to common sense and thrown a lifeline to the victims.

Although this legislation was a long time coming, the good news is that women won’t have to wait any longer. Unlike many laws, this one took effect immediately.

“No rapist should be allowed to maintain parental rights and no victim should be forced to interact with her attacker,” said Governor Hogan prior to signing. “I commend [lawmakers] for finally passing the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act.”

Another good thing about the law is that it doesn’t require a rapist to be convicted of the crime to lose parental rights. As RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) points out, less than 1 percent of rapists are convicted, which would leave the law pretty ineffective.

Out_Of_1000_Rapes 122016

Instead, rape victims can request that a judge terminate parental rights so long as they furnish “clear and convincing evidence” that a rape occurred. In the eyes of a court, that is a lower threshold than “beyond a reasonable doubt” which prevents rapists from being convicted in he-said/she-said circumstances.

Sometimes you have to wonder how such non-controversial issues can take forever to make it through the legislature. State Delegate Kathleen Dumais has been trying to get her bill voted on for more than a decade. Thankfully, once the legislation finally made it to the floor, both halves of the state General Assembly passed the bill unanimously.

In recent years, impregnated women who decided to carry the pregnancy to term would sometimes find themselves in an ongoing battle with the rapists. If a woman wanted to keep the baby, the rapist father was often automatically entitled to shared custody. If a woman wanted to put the baby up for adoption, the rapist father would need to sign off on it first.

Not only were those circumstances traumatic, they were also occasionally used as a form of leverage. Dumais knew of some women who had to agree to not press charges against their rapists in exchange for them forfeiting their parental rights.

Take Action

While Maryland has finally done right by these rape survivors, there are still several other states in the country that maintain parental rights for rapists. If you haven’t already signed the petition, please add your name since it also addresses the state legislatures of North Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, New Mexico, Mississippi and Alabama.

Women in these states deserve to make decisions about their pregnancies without interference from the rapists, so let’s push the pressure on lawmakers to finally make it happen nationwide.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

81 comments

Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Lesa D
Lesa D6 months ago

thank you Maryland!
#24751 petition signed...

thank you Kevin...

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Jen S
Jen S6 months ago

A good law, finally. If only it was federal. This seems so obvious under the circumstances of rape, but the radical right minority invariably shoots this down.

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo Reeson6 months ago

ty

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo Reeson6 months ago

ty

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo Reeson6 months ago

ty

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Sabrina D
Past Member 6 months ago

Very well done!!! I had already signed the petition.

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KimJ M
KimJ M6 months ago

tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M6 months ago

tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M6 months ago

already signed

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