Bill Aims to Sever Parental Rights of Rapists

A big vote in Olympia Monday morning could help close an almost unbelievable hole in state law. Dan Frizzell has that story.

Strange but true: When a rape results in pregnancy and the birth of a child in Washington state, the perpetrator is presumed by law to enjoy parental rights unless he was actually convicted of the rape.  Because relatively few rapes do lead to convictions, most women who have been victimized in this way are victimized again and again throughout their child’s life by having to share parental decisions with their rapist.  Lowering the bar for legally severing those rights is the goal of a bill OK’d in the state House of Representatives Monday morning.  Representative Beth Doglio, a Democratic freshman from Olympia, sponsored the bill, the first of her legislative career to reach the House floor.

“Women who become pregnant as the result of rape face tremendous legal hurdles in terminating paternity rights.  Going through sexual assault is traumatic enough. Current law forces women to have contact with their rapist.  No woman should be forced to co-parent with her rapist.”

Unless and until Doglio’s bill becomes law, rapists who escape conviction for their attack can occupy the same legal territory as most other fathers, giving them the ability to veto their victims’ decision to place her baby for adoption, for example, and visitation rights, among others. Doglio’s bipartisan bill passed 94-to-2, with a pair of Republican holdouts, and will be taken up by the Senate next. In Olympia, I’m Dan Frizzell.