Alabama has made a move toward loosening rapists’ hold on parental rights in the state.
The move is seen as particularly important since Alabama just virtually outlawed all abortions in the state, with no exceptions for rape or incest, which left open the nightmarish possibility that a woman could be raped and then forced to raise a subsequent child with the rapist.
But now, Alabama has amended an existing law in order to strip the parental rights of anyone convicted of first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy or incest, according to the Washington Post.
Lawmakers went to work on amending Alabama legislation known as “Jessi’s Law” — which strips parental rights from someone convicted of raping their own child — following the outcry after the lack of protections for other rape victims was noted in the press, the Post reports.
But activists say the change doesn’t go far enough, saying a conviction should not be the bar for having parental rights stripped in cases involving rape or incest. As the Post explains:
... activists say that, because the law requires a conviction, it leaves many victims vulnerable, since most sexual assaults are never reported, much less punished in court. They say Alabama judges should terminate custody if there is “clear and convincing evidence” that an attack occurred — the standard used in a majority of states, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“We need to mandate judges in family-law matters to immediately suspend any legal or physical custody or parenting time if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the child was conceived in rape,” said Rebecca Kiessling, an anti-abortion family attorney who was conceived during a rape.
It even appears, reports the Post, that lawmakers on Alabama’s Senate Judiciary Committee, in making the change, didn’t exactly mean to give protections to all survivors of rape or incest.
Per the Post:
But Senate Judiciary Chairman Cam Ward (R) said that his committee had a much narrower intention for the addition, which was inserted only “to make sure an actual conviction occurred before parental rights were removed” in a Jessi’s Law situation.
“Looking back at the language,” he said, “it appears that the substitute went much further by actually allowing for the removal of parental rights in any case of rape, incest and sodomy.”
In any case, the modification to Jessi’s Law is set to take effect Sept. 1.