Monday, June 1, 2015

President Signs Rape Survivor Child Custody Act Into Law! by Rebecca Kiessling

After passing the U.S. Senate 99 to 0, our model legislation from Hope After Rape Conception -- the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act (H.R. 1257) -- was signed into law by President Obama on Friday!  Our co-founders from HARC, Shauna Prewitt and Analyn Megison worked very hard on this, working closely with House sponsor  Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D) and Senate sponsors Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R).

The Act provides an incentive to states to pass legislation providing for a means to terminate the parental rights of rapists, using the "clear and convincing evidence” standard from the U.S Supreme Court case of Santosky v Kramer.  25% of the grant funds are to be allocated to the STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grant Program, and 75% of funds go to the Sexual Assault Services Program.  The text of the Act reads that it:  "Directs the Attorney General to make grants to states that have in place a law that allows the mother of any child that was conceived through rape to seek court-ordered termination of the parental rights of her rapist with regard to that child, which the court shall grant upon clear and convincing evidence of rape."
In Analyn's home state of Florida, she got the legislature to pass this legislation unanimously, which is how Wasserman-Schultz heard of our model legislation.  Several states are currently working to pass this law, including Michigan and Maryland, while some states' legislation, like Pennsylvania, are insufficient because those bills require a rape conviction. 
Both Shauna and Analyn had to fight their rapists for custody.  Shauna is a practicing attorney who I met when I spoke at Georgetown Law while she was attending.  Analyn is a law grad too.  
Another board member, Angela Grogg, has been working on getting our model legislation passed in many states, ever since her family endured a court battle fighting her 14 year old daughter's rapist for custody.  
Several members of Save The 1 who were conceived in rape suffered molestation by their rapist fathers because they were not protected by law, including Darlene Pawlik and Rowena Slusser.  Other women from our organization, such as Robyn McLean and Darlene Pawlik's mom, were repeatedly raped as their rapist used contact with the child to continue raping her.  As you may expect, women associated with our organization are celebrating as this news came out!
We encourage every pro-life organization to get behind this legislation, as Right to Life of Michigan is currently championing this bill.  Not only is it pro-life in effect -- because pregnant rape victims will be more likely to choose life if they know they'll be protected from the rapist, but you'll be able to demonstrate that you really care about these women and their children, and you'll also have the advantage of seeing rape survivor mothers testifying before the legislature at a time when legislators walls are down. Just think of how powerful it is for rape-exception legislators and pro-choice legislators to hear the testimonies of these rape survivors and the love they have for their children -- just wanting them to be protected. 
Only a couple of states have this clear and convincing evidence standard, and many states still have nothing at all.  With this new law from Congress, it's the perfect time to begin working with your state legislators to properly protect rape survivor mothers and their children.
BIO: Rebecca Kiessling is an attorney and national pro-life speaker who was conceived in rape.  She's the president and founder of Save The 1 and co-founder of Hope After Rape Conception.