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Parental rights of rapists terminated in Maryland

WBAL TV Baltimore logo WBAL TV Baltimore 2/13/2018

a person taking a selfie in a room: Baby Name Trends - Generic © Provided by Hearst Television, Inc. Baby Name Trends - Generic Gov. Larry Hogan signed legislation Tuesday terminating the parental rights of rapists in Maryland. It took nine years to get the bill passed, but it is considered emergency legislation, so it takes effect immediately.

Advocates believe the bill sends several messages, two of which are particularly key: One, that women should be believed, and two, that they do have a right to bring an action to court to have their concerns heard.

"This is a very important day for the state of Maryland. I know this is a long time coming," Hogan said.

Victims' rights advocates have fought nine years to pass legislation allowing women who become pregnant as a result of sexual assault to terminate the parental rights of their attacker.

"From a global perspective, it signifies a respect for women, (and) our understanding of what they go through," said Lisea Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Speaker Michael Busch recognized Del. Kathleen Dumais as the person who almost single-handedly delivered the bill to the governor's desk.

"She has been the champion. Very patient, persistent to make this happen, and without her, we would not be here today," Busch said.

The law allows rape survivors who become pregnant by their attacker to petition the court to remove his parental rights, even with no conviction. A judge will use a clear and convincing evidence standard to make that decision.

"Having a judge weigh and balance what should be done. Terminating anyone's parental rights is a major decision, a substantial decision, and it should be done in a fair way," Dumais said.

Senate Bill 2 received a unanimous vote, but the bill came close to going back to the drawing board in the Senate.

"One of the concessions that the Senate had to make in order to allow this bill to get passed was that (the bill must also) relieve the rapist of that parental responsibility of supporting the child," said Senate Pres. Mike Miller.

Advocates aren't finished yet. They will be back next year, pushing a bill to give victims the option of making their rapist pay child support.

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