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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: March 2, 2015 11:16 AM
From: Senator Lawrence M. Farnese, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Parental Rights of Rapists Exclusion
In the near future, I plan to reintroduce Senate Bill 629, my legislation from last session that would amend Title 23 (Domestic Relations) to specifically negate rapists’ parental rights when a child is born from such a crime.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 32,000 women become pregnant from rape in the United States each year. Of those 32,000 pregnancies, it has been estimated that nearly half are carried to term and the majority of those children are raised by the biological mother.

Only 19 states currently exclude parental rights of rapists, including custody and visitation rights. In the other 31 states, a rapist’s biological connection to a child, regardless of under what circumstances the child was conceived, is generally sufficient to access parental rights.

While specific numbers regarding the frequency with which rapists seek to affirm their rights as a parent are not known, anecdotal reports have shown that adding legal protections for mothers will ensure that these victims of sexual violence will not have to endure ongoing association with their rapist when raising their children. My legislation would ensure that the victims of rape in Pennsylvania who choose to give birth to children conceived as a result of sexual assault are not subjected to the trauma of rape a second time and for the remainder of their child’s life.

Specifically, my legislation would require that no court award custody, partial custody or supervised physical custody to a parent who has been convicted of rape, statutory sexual assault, sexual assault, institutional sexual assault or incest against the parent of the child who is the subject of the order. The language would also require the court to ban custody awards if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that the child was conceived as a result of the same criminal activities enumerated above. I have parsed this language into the two sections, as victims of rape oftentimes do not bring charges against those who committed the crime against them.

I strongly encourage you to join me in co-sponsoring this important protection for women and their children.

Introduced as SB723