A bill has advanced in the Michigan state legislature that would prevent rapists from gaining custody of a child who is born after a woman victimized by rape rejects abortion and keeps her baby.
On April 21, the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act (H.B. 4481) was introduced in the Michigan Legislature and the bill received its first hearing on May 19th.Now, the state House has approved the bill, which enjoys the support of pro-life groups.
The Michigan House of Representatives approved HB 4481 on October 15 by an overwhelming bi-partisan 101-4 vote. This bill would strengthen the rights of women who carry their child to term after conceiving in rape. The bill reduces barriers to a woman blocking the rapist from seeking legal custody and parenting time with the child. Sometimes perpetrators who know their victims use the threat of a custody battle over the child to coerce the woman to either have an abortion or to drop the rape charges the victim has brought against them.
This legislation is inspired by the story of Shauna Prewitt, who was forced to choose between protecting her daughter conceived in rape or dropping the charges against her assailant. Shauna witnesses to the inestimable value and beauty of her daughter’s life through a short video that is part of Right to Life of Michigan’s Compassion Project.
HB 4481 now heads to the Senate where we will begin working immediately for its passage. Right to Life of Michigan is proud to have brought this legislation to bill sponsor Rep. Lisa Lyons for introduction, and we are encouraged and pleased by its progress thus far.
The pro-life group added: “H.B. 4481 would allow a rape survivor who becomes pregnant from assault to petition the family court to terminate the parental rights of her assailant under a “clear and convincing” evidence standard and without the necessity of a criminal conviction.”
They added, “Current law provides for the termination of parental rights of a man who impregnates a woman via sexual assault if he is convicted of felony rape. Unfortunately, felony rape convictions are difficult to obtain and require a legal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt”. This bill would make the standard for termination of parental rights the same as for those who abuse or neglect their child.”
It’s hard to believe that a rapist would have the audacity to try and attain parental rights after assaulting a woman; however, that is exactly what happened to rape victim Shauna Prewitt. After her daughter was born, the rapist sued Shauna for legal custody of her child but thankfully, lost. Now she works as a lawyer helping other rape survivors avoid some of the heartache she went through.
She told CNN that in many states, “…men who father through rape are able to assert the same custody and visitation rights to their children that other fathers enjoy.”
Shauna also shared her story in a television clip to encourage women to choose life for children conceived in rape. As LifeNews previously reported, Shauna was raped while attending college and described her experience like this: “The best way I really can describe being raped, it’s really like a death. We live in a culture where children who are conceived in rape are still spoken of in terms of an animal’s child, a monster’s child. She’s wiped away my tears when she didn’t understand why I was crying and has just been with me through the darkness.”
Watch Shauna’s video below.