Governor Snyder signed the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act into law on May 3. The new law helps prevent a rapist from gaining custody of a child. The law was included in a larger package of bills addressing domestic violence that Governor Snyder also signed.
Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing said, “Half of women who become pregnant through rape don’t have abortions and most of those women decide to keep their child. Michigan was not doing enough to protect women from their attackers in those circumstances.”
Under old state law a parent whose child was conceived through sexual assault had to secure a conviction in order to terminate the attacker’s parental rights. Rape convictions can be difficult to obtain because the evidence standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The new law changes that evidence standard for child custody hearings to “clear and convincing,” the same standard in custody hearings applied to child abuse accusations.
The change received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Michigan Legislature. The Senate passed it unanimously and the House passed the final version 105-3.
Throughout 2015 Right to Life of Michigan aired television ads as part of the compassion project. The ads directly addressed the issue of rape and abortion through the stories of four women. One of those women, Shauna, was forced to choose between pursuing charges against her attacker and protecting custody of her daughter.
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Right to Life of Michigan and prolife legislators began working on the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act after learning about this weakness in the court system.
Listing said, “A child deserves love and protection, not to be used as a bargaining chip for rapists to threaten their mothers and escape prosecution.”
Shauna’s story, which inspired the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, can be seen on Right to Life of Michigan’s website here.