When a woman who becomes pregnant after sexual assault bravely rejects an abortion and decides to keep her baby, why should the rapist get even partial custody in such a situation? That’s the question representatives of Ohio Right to Life want state legislators to seriously consider.
Today, Kayla Smith, Director of Legislative Affairs at Ohio Right to Life, offered testimony in favor of Substitute S.B. 207 before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. The bill, introduced by Sens. Tom Patton, R-Strongsville, and Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, would protect rape victims and their children, during pregnancy and after birth.
Under the bill, a victim/birth-parent can place her child for adoption without the legal consent of the offender if the child who is being placed was conceived by rape or sexual battery. The legislation also makes it so a victim can obtain a court order to terminate the offender’s parental rights if the child was conceived by rape or sexual battery.
“We applaud legal safeguards that will limit the interaction a victim potentially faces with her offender both during and after pregnancy,” said Smith.
In 31 states, rapists are allowed to seek custody of the children born as a result of their crime. Ten years ago, Shauna Prewitt was raped, and at that time many people in her life encouraged Shauna to abort her daughter, but she knew that was not the right choice for herself or for her child.
Having made the courageous decision to raise her daughter as a 21-year-old single mother, Shauna had her share of difficulties to surmount, and to add to insult to injury, her attacker sought custody of their daughter when she was born.
Last summer, Ohio Right to Life commended the introduction of a similar bill by Sens. Charleta Tavares, D-Columbus, and Nina Turner, D-Cleveland. The bill came in the wake of the Cleveland case in which one of three kidnapped women gave birth to a daughter fathered by kidnapper and captor, Ariel Castro.
“We are encouraged by all initiatives that prevent further trauma from being inflicted on the mother and her child,” continued Smith. “As we’ve said from the beginning: Laws that enable mothers to take control, make positive choices and affirm the lives of their children and their family are critical to assist with the recovery process.”
Ohio Right to Life thanks Sens. Patton and Manning for protecting the victims of sexual assault and their unborn children.
To read Kayla Smith’s testimony, click here.