More than half the states permit men who father children through rape to petition a court for parental rights. Ohio lawmakers have crafted legislation that would “inhibit” father’s rights for men with sexual battery or rape convictions. The state House recently gave the bill unanimous approval.
Courts want parents to remain in their children’s lives whenever possible. Judges traditionally have felt, despite parents’ objections to one another, children deserve to have a relationship with both parents.
The loss of parental rights strips a person of the ability to make crucial choices for a child, like religious upbringing and decisions about education and medical issues. A parent who loses rights forfeits the opportunity to watch a child grow and may not interfere if the child is placed for adoption.
In most cases, an individual with lost parental rights is absolved of providing child support. The legal proposal in the Ohio legislature is an exception. The measure would require rapists and sexual batterers to pay child support to victims who gave birth to the convicted men’s children.
Women’s rights groups and politicians, normally at odds along party lines over other issues, have thrown support behind the Ohio proposal. Supporters say women with children by rape should not have to share child custody and decision-making with attackers.
Judges decisions over rights for parents convicted of rape have varied widely. Ariel Castro, convicted last year of keeping three women captive in his home for a decade, was denied a request to visit with a child he fathered by one of the hostages. In another state, a judge ordered a convicted rapist to visit with his teenage daughter, born of the rape, as part of the man’s probation.
The best interests of the child have trumped every other reason to preserve or deny parental rights. The Ohio proposal would shield one biological parent from another, under extreme circumstances.
Source: Care2, “Stripping Parental Rights from Rapists May Be One Place Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Can Agree” Robin Marty, Jan. 20, 2014