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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 23, 2014 12:03 PM
From: Representative Joseph T. Hackett and Rep. Cherelle L. Parker, Rep. Michael H. Schlossberg
To: All House members
Subject: Rape Survivor Child Custody and Support Act
In the near future, we plan to reintroduce legislation from last session to address an issue faced by victims of rape who have become pregnant as a result of the rape. Currently, Pennsylvania law only allows for the termination of parental rights of convicted rapists pending adoption. As it stands, if a victim of rape chooses to keep the child conceived as a result of the rape, she could be forced to interact with the perpetrator on a regular basis through visitation. In addition, if a victim chooses to prosecute her abuser and retain parental rights of the child, the abuser could threaten to pursue custody or visitation with the child if the victim does not drop the charges. Furthermore, if the parental rights of the offender are terminated, the obligation to pay child support is also terminated.

With the support of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, the legislation we plan to introduce would address these problems. This legislation would allow the courts to terminate the parental rights of a convicted rapist, thereby eliminating the abuser’s access to full, partial, or supervised custody of a child conceived by rape. The victim has the opportunity to object to the termination of rights should she wish to stay in contact with the child’s biological father. This bill would also maintain an offender’s obligation to pay child support even if parental rights are terminated.

Nationwide, an estimated 33,000 victims become pregnant as a result of rape annually. A victim of rape has already endured the rape, cooperated with law enforcement, and may potentially have to relive their horrific experience in court proceedings. Victims simply should not be forced to share custody or allow visitation of their child with the perpetrator, nor should they be required to forego child support in order to protect their children and themselves. This is a public policy that must not stand. We ask for your support of this legislation to protect the emotional and physical safety of rape survivors and their children.

This legislation was unanimously adopted by the House last session as amendments to House Bill 945, which ultimately failed to be considered by the Senate.

Please contact our offices if you have any questions and thank you for your support.

Introduced as HB410