HARRISBURG — Members of the House and Senate on Monday called for the state to make it easier for a woman who has become pregnant as a result of rape to have her assaulter’s parental rights terminated while maintaining his obligation to pay child support.
A bipartisan group of House members introduced a bill requiring the courts to accept requests by rape victims that their rapists not receive custody of children conceived through the assault, unless the child is old enough and agrees to the custody arrangement.
The legislation at the same time maintains the rapist’s liability for child support payments if parental rights have been terminated because of a conviction for raping the other parent.
“It sounds unthinkable, but as the current law states, the victim is forced to spend her own precious resources to defend herself once again from that rapist,” said Rep. Joe Hackett, R-Delaware and the bill’s prime sponsor, at a news conference announcing the bill.
“No victim should then find themselves facing the prospect of having the rapist in their life or the life of their child,” said Delilah Rumburg, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
Similar legislation passed the House last year but was not considered by the Senate before the end of the legislative session. But a Republican senator, Randy Vulakovich of Shaler, said Monday he also would introduce legislation allowing courts to terminate parental rights of a convicted rapist while maintaining an obligation to pay child support.
The Coalition Against Rape cited a 1996 study that estimated that rape causes more than 32,000 pregnancies among U.S. women each year.
Jennifer Storm, the state victim advocate, said she recalls a case in which a young woman was forced to face her rapist in court on several occasions as she fought his attempts to gain the right to visit her child.
“I think this bill is absolutely necessary,” Ms. Storm said.
“For victims, they don’t even think this is possible. How in the world can the man who raped them have any rights to the child who may have been conceived as a result of that rape?”
Karen Langley: email@example.com, 717-787-2141 or on Twitter @karen_langley.