A bill is being introduced in the House of Representatives that would help rape survivors maintain full custody of their children that were conceived from rape.
The bill, titled the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, is being sponsored by Rep. Debbie Wasserman (D-FL). It aims to help women with children conceived from rape “seek court-ordered termination of the parental rights of the rapist.”
The issue of rapist seeking custodial rights is more prevalent than one might think. According to custody rights attorney Shauna Prewitt, nearly 11,000 women each year decide to keep and raise children conceived from rape. Of the 11,000, many face long custody battles with rapists who come forward seeking custody of the children. Prewitt would know. She was raped as a college senior, and felt “tethered” to her rapist for years due to Illinois custody rights law.
“Women who face the issue that I faced are dealing with custody battles that are behind closed doors,” Prewitt said. “This is absolutely horrific and we shouldn’t be bargaining with rapists."
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Prewitt spoke at a press conference for the bill today. During the press conference, she explained that rapists often give their victims an ultimatum to either drop the criminal charges against them or else they will pursue custody of the child.
Bill co-sponsor Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) also spoke in favor of the at today’s press conference.
“I think many people believe that people run off and have abortions and they can’t stand their children,” Moore said. “But many of these women choose to raise their children. And the last thing that a woman who chooses to raise this child needs is the emotional and physical intervention in their parental rights.”
As Think Progress notes, 31 states currently have no custodial rights protection for mothers of children conceived during rape. Of the 19 states that do have protection, only six meet the standards set out in the bill.