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An Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence.

In Alabama — where lawmakers banned abortion for rape victims — rapists’ parental rights are protected

Sunday, June 09, 2019

"When a young woman came to the Family Services of North Alabama office last year for help with trauma, saying she had been raped by her step-uncle when she was 15, rape crisis advocate Portia Shepherd heard something that 'killed me, shocked me.'

The step-uncle, who was getting out of jail after a drug conviction, wanted to be a part of their child’s life. And in Alabama, the alleged rapist could get custody.

'It’s the craziest thing I ever heard in my life,' Shepherd said. 'On the state level, people were shocked. How could Alabama even be missing this law?'

Alabama is one of two states with no statute terminating parental rights for a person found to have conceived the child by rape or incest, a fact that has gained fresh relevance since its lawmakers adopted the nation’s strictest abortion ban in May. That statute even outlaws the procedure for victims of sexual assault and jails doctors who perform it, except in cases of serious risk to the woman’s health.

While the Alabama abortion law has been challenged in court, abortion rights activists fear it could reduce access to the procedure, forcing rape victims to bear children and co-parent with their attackers.

...In addition to Alabama, only Minnesota has no law terminating parental rights in rape cases. Many states adopted such statutes after Congress passed the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act in 2015, granting additional funding to help sexual assault victims in states that allow courts to end parental rights when there is 'clear and convincing evidence' that a child was conceived by rape.

More than half of the 50 states use the 'clear and convincing evidence' standard, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures using Justice Department data."

Read the full article here. For more information on the intersections of domestic and sexual violence and reproductive justice, see VAWnet's Reproductive Justice & Violence Against Women: Understanding the Intersections special collection.