Parental Rights for Rapists?

May 12, 2016


Rape victims who have gotten pregnant have had the heart wrenching decision to decide whether to seek an abortion or to have the child.  If a rape victim decides to have the baby, in some states, she may have to fight with the rapist for custody.

Last year, President Obama signed into law the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act.  This law provides grants to states that allow women to petition for termination of parental rights based on clear and convincing evidence that the child was conceived through rape.

Many states have laws that restrict or completely terminate parental rights of rapists.  According to Virginia Code 63.2-1233(6), consent of the rapist is not required in an adoption case, where parental rights are terminated. However, if the mother wishes to keep the child, the rapist has options to seek other parental rights.

In the District of Columbia, there are no restrictions of the parental rights of rapists.  In Maryland, the state Senate just rejected a bill that would terminate the parental rights of rapists.  The resistance stems from the right to have and raise a family, grounded in the Due Process Clause.

So generally in this region, women who choose to give birth to a child conceived from rape will be tied to the rapist forever.  What should be the law?

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