Accept the House version of HB428/SB574About 5% of women of reproductive age who are raped become pregnant as a result, with about 38% carrying a child to term. Right now, in Maryland, the rapist has the same parental rights as any other biological father. The Rape Survivor Family Protection Act is legislation to create a process so a rape survivor can petition to terminate the parental rights of the rapist. This legislation has passed both the House (HB428) and the Senate (SB574). We appreciate the work of the House of Delegates to pass a strong bill that will help and respect survivors. Unfortunately, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee weakened protections for rape victims and children conceived through rape. As introduced, the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act prohibited courts from ordering publication of the names or personally identifying information of the rape survivor or child. The House of Delegates passed the bill with these provisions intact, but the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee stripped off these provisions and would allow judges to order that a rape victim publish her name and the name of the child as a condition of moving forward with litigation. Theoretically, "publication" is to provide notice that the case exists, but few professionals believe that potential fathers actually read the small ads placed in classified sections to see if they have conceived a child. Ads are, however, included in on-line versions of newspapers, and the names of rape victims and their children can easily be found by search engines, such as Google. The Maryland Attorney General’s Office analyzed the bill and confirmed that publication of names is not necessary. Other amendments by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee included reducing the statute of limitations from 7 to 3 years, eliminating the ability of a child or child's guardian to file a petition, and depriving the court of authority to order temporary custody while a case is pending. The Senate Committee, chaired by Senator Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), also amended the bill to prevent prosecutors from introducing evidence that a defendant testified one way in the family law case and another way in a criminal case. MCASA is grateful the members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee who held their noses and voted for bad amendments in order to get the bill out of committee and onto the Senate floor. Now the two bills go to conference committee to iron out the differences. State family law should be on the side of women and their children who are working, against great odds, to recover their sense of security, dignity, and stability after the trauma of rape. The House version of this bill respects these survivors and should be enacted into law.
Call your legislators.
Ask them to support the House version of the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act (HB428/SB574)Information on your state legislators and how to reach them can be found by clicking here.