By Monica Short, MCASA Program Intern
Astonishingly, Maryland law currently grants rapists who cause a child to be conceived the same parental rights as any other biological parents. During the 2017 legislative session, the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act (SB574/HB428) will again be introduced to address this problem. Delegate Kathleen Dumais and Senators Brian Feldman and Susan Lee are reintroducing this bill in the Senate and House, respectively. This critical legislation has been proposed for eight consecutive legislative sessions and was up for a vote last year, but the House Judiciary Committee failed to vote on it.
The Rape Survivor Family Protection Act would create a process through which survivors could terminate the parental rights of their rapist. The bill would require that a survivor must demonstrate through “clear and convincing evidence” that the child was conceived via sexual assault, and that it is in the best interest of the child to terminate parental rights. This standard of proof aligns with the standard used in all other family law contexts regarding judicial termination of parental rights. Without legislation protecting her rights, a mother may be forced to interact with her rapist regularly, as well as give her child over to the rapist for visitation. This is re-traumatizing for many survivors of rape and wrongly prioritizes the rapist’s rights over the rights of the survivor and the best interests of the child. MCASA will be advocating in the Maryland legislature this session to ensure that survivors of rape are heard and protected. We encourage you to contact your senators and delegates to tell them that rapists in Maryland should not have the same parental rights as the women they attack. More information regarding this critical legislation can be found here.
 Sterman, J. (2015). Lawmaker fights to close Md. loophole allowing rapists to seek custody of children conceived during attacks. WJLA Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://wjla.com/news/political/lawmaker-fights-to-close-md-loophole-allowing-rapists-to-seek-custody-of-child-conceived-during-atta.