Rape is not an easy subject for me to write about on any level. No woman should ever have to go through the dehumanizing, demoralizing and destructive act of rape. The truth is that some women do. And this article out of Maryland is interesting in many ways.
First off, I was not aware that fathers who conceive children via rape (in Maryland) retain parental rights. You read that right. They can appeal for rights to visitation. They can fight for custody. My stomach kind of turns at the thought. However, that fact is currently under hot debate as a new legislation could allow judges to waive an alleged rapists parental rights, even if the father is eventually acquitted.
That also doesn’t sit well with me. Not to the same extent. But I feel kind of uneasy. Because I know that there are unethical agencies in adoption land. And I’d hate for them to latch onto this idea.
Don’t read into my words. No woman who is raped should ever have to deal with her rapist other than see him go to jail. I am simply concerned about the very few fathers that could get caught up in this issue who were honestly innocent. While I would assume (and hope) that they would be few and far between, my heart breaks for (almost) any father who wants to parent his child and is denied that right. But mothers and children also deserve protection. (Almost because I really don’t want rapists parenting their children.) I guess I’d feel better if I didn’t know that unethical agencies, attorneys and individuals counsel women to lie about paternity in the first place to avoid getting the biological father’s signature. I hope that those kind of unethical individuals wouldn’t take advantage of something as serious as a rape charge and use it to their benefit. Then again, unethical people don’t always care about lines of right and wrong. But I can hope, right?
Interestingly, Maryland isn’t doing anything completely out of the ordinary.
As of 2004, 21 states had enacted laws terminating some parental rights in the case of a child conceived by sexual assault, according to the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which supports the bill. About half of the states do not require a criminal conviction, said Lisae C. Jordan, the group’s legislative counsel.
What’s alarming about those stats is the large number of states that do give normal paternal rights to fathers who conceive a child via rape. My heart goes out to the mothers and children in those states.
Without getting into a pro-life, pro-choice debate, this statistic is also interesting.
Fathers also have a say when mothers want to put a child up for adoption. That occurs in about 6 percent of rape-related pregnancies, according to a 1996 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that Jordan cited.
Raskin said that in those cases, a mother might opt for abortion rather than risk handing over her child to the man who raped her. “It puts the women in a terrible quandary,” he said.
Obviously, the pro-life sector is in support of the legislation for this reason. However, the pro-choice camp should also be supportive, in my opinion. Why? Anything that gives women more choice and more power in a situation that took away all power should be something to back! It’s rare to see a legislation that both belief-parties can get behind.
All in all, I think it’s a great concept. Mothers who have been through the horrid ordeal of rape shouldn’t have to deal with more and unnecessary stress brought about by the father. I’d love to see this legislation approved in Maryland and make its way through to the other states that haven’t caught up with this notion. I’ll continue to hope that it is used only when necessary and not by unethical people with selfish intention.
For more on issues for birth fathers, read these posts.