10 Years Later, Rape Victims in One State Gain a Victory

Women impregnated by their rapists can cut off parental rights
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 8, 2018 12:11 AM CST
Del. Kathleen Dumais is seen at the Maryland House of Delegates in Annapolis, Md. Dumais' bill will enable women who are impregnated by a rapist to ask a court to end the parental rights of the rapist.   (AP Photo/Brian Whitte)
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(Newser) – More than 10 years after supporters began pushing for it, Maryland's legislature has decided—with unanimous votes in the state Senate and House—to enable impregnated rape victims to ask judges to end the parental rights of their rapists. Supporters say it has become embarrassing that a state known for its progressive politics is one of the last to adopt such a law, the AP reports. They also credit a growing sense of female empowerment for making the issue a priority. "I think we were moving in the direction of getting [it] done this year, period, but I think the #MeToo movement certainly helped," said Del. Kathleen Dumais, a Democrat who practices family law.

The measure will enable a woman who becomes pregnant by her assailant to ask a court to end the attacker's parental rights. The woman must provide "clear and convincing" proof that the man raped her. That is lower than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" threshold needed for criminal convictions, and some civil liberties-minded lawmakers had opposed the idea for years to avoid revoking the rights of people who haven't been criminally convicted. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, expressed early support and noted during his State of the State speech last week that he would sign the measure. About 45 states and the District of Columbia limit parental rights of rapists, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

(Read more Maryland stories.)

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