CNN notes that in Texas, a parent may have their rights terminated if a court finds that any act of sexual assault led to the conception of the child. For many people, this may go without saying. Is this not the case in every state? The unfortunate answer is no. Believe it or not, there are states in America where mothers may be forced to share parental rights with the man who assaulted them.
Here is a list of the states where rapists may have parental rights:
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
Even states with legislative protection vary on how far that protection extends and what the legal parameters are. For example, in D.C. and 20 states, a rape conviction is required before the termination of parental rights. Texas does not require a rape conviction to block parental rights.
Note also that only 36% of rapes were reported between 2005 and 2010, while only 12% of rape and sexual assault incidents even led to an arrest. In addition to this, some states do not count an act as rape if it occurred during a marriage or the two people cohabitated thereafter. Because of this, women in abusive relationships who struggled to leave safely may find that their abuser has the means to continue to control their lives by using the child as a pawn.
The good news is that in the states that do not currently have any laws to protect victims of rape and their children from rapists, some attempts are being made to change this. Fox News notes that Maryland is one such state that has made numerous attempts to update its laws. Sources say the bill to terminate parental rights for rapists has been on the table for more than a decade now.
As more states seek to restrict women’s ability to abort a fetus, sometimes even in the case of rape or incest, more women may become exposed to the possibility of co-parenting with their rapist. How this will affect the wellbeing of mother and child is a concern judges will need to take into consideration when awarding custodial and visitation rights.