Each year, more than 32,000 women are raped in the United States. Some of them become pregnant, and some of those give birth. While child custody and visitation issues have spawned laws seeking to protect rape victims and their children from attackers, one issue that has received little attention is child support. Recently, a Pennsylvania legislator announced plans to introduce a bill in the state legislature addressing these circumstances.
Currently, Pennsylvania law offers the rape victim that gives birth a choice. The parental rights of the rapist can be involuntarily terminated, providing protection for both the victim and the child. However, if the rapist’s parental rights are taken away, the mother also loses the right to collect child support from her attacker. In effect, the victim must choose between terminating parental rights and collecting child support, a choice made all the more difficult when the victim has limited finances.
Under the proposed law, the victim would no longer have to choose. In what one observer noted was a common sense approach to the issue, the new bill would permit the rape victim to terminate the parental rights of her attacker while retaining the right to receive child support. The state representative introducing the bill indicated that he is seeking co-sponsors before submitting the proposal to the House Judiciary Committee for formal consideration.
While it remains to be seen how the legislation will fare, a woman who bears a child from rape or incest must face a myriad of legal issues. The best first step may be to gain an understanding of the applicable laws and procedures to protect the rights of the victim and child. Those affected can take solace in knowing they do not have to face these difficult issues alone. Help is available to both protect the rights of the victim and act in the best interests of any children affected by ensuring the right of the mother to seek and receive child support.
Source: lehighvalleylive.com, “Proposed Pennsylvania bill would prevent rape victims from choosing between rapist’s parental rights, child support,” Colin McEvoy, Feb. 25, 2013