Alabama lawmakers approved harsher penalties for rapists this summer after passing another law to protect unborn babies from abortions.
Many pro-life advocates believe Jessi’s Law, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Will Dismukes, will help rape victims and their unborn babies.
The Washington Examiner reports the law eliminates parental rights for convicted rapists in Alabama; it is slated to take effect Sept. 1. Pro-life Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the law in June.
“Now it’s mandated that if you’re convicted of rape or incest, that you lose your parental rights,” Dismukes said. “You’re not protected. The judges have always had the discretion, but this just makes it where you lose them.”
He said his law has nothing to do with the recent pro-life law that bans all abortions in Alabama, though some media outlets have linked the two.
A few weeks ago, the Washington Post ran a piece attacking Alabama pro-life leaders under the headline “In Alabama — where lawmakers banned abortion for rape victims — rapists’ parental rights are protected.”
Dismukes responded by arguing that the Post was trying “too hard for a really good, really juicy story,” the Public News Press reports. He said judges already had the ability to take away rapists’ parental rights, and now his law closes any possibility of a loophole.
“We want to create this huge divide between Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature, and we don’t want to talk about how often we do work together …” Dismukes said in a statement. “I hope we can see a turn in media in what we print and report and broadcast, and we can really get the truth, and I think that we would see people in the general public a lot happier with that.”
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The Washington Post did report on the new law last week, writing, “The issue of parental rights for rapists gained fresh relevance in May, after Alabama lawmakers passed the nation’s strictest ban on abortion, outlawing the procedure even in cases of rape or incest.”
Some pro-life organizations are involved in advocating for such laws to help mothers and babies who are victims of rape. Victims sometimes consider abortion out of fear of being forced to share parental rights with their abusers.
These kinds of cases do occur. Several years ago, LifeNews published an article from Analyn Megison, a board member of Hope After Rape Conception. She is a rape survivor who fought for custody of her daughter.
“My custody case in Florida against my rapist started in 2010 and went on for a little over two years. Though I had a restraining order and had pursued prosecution, he was not convicted of rape,” Megison wrote. “At the time he sued for custody, I did not know how many states had no or limited legal protection at that time from a rapist biological father when the child was conceived from his attack. Those states which had laws required a rape conviction.”
For many years, pro-life attorney Rebecca Kiessling has urged pro-life advocates to get involved in the battle to protect mothers from rapists who seek custody of their children. Her organization, Save The 1, helps women victimized by rape to choose life for their children.
In 2015, she applauded a new federal law, the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, which protects women who are victims of rape. Kiessling told LifeNews at the time that the new law “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.”
In 2016, Michigan passed a new law to help prevent a rapist from gaining custody of a child conceived in the act of violence. Right to Life of Michigan supported the measure.
Not many studies have been done on women who become pregnant by rape and their choices about giving birth or having an abortion. However, the limited research on the issue indicates more than 70 percent of women do choose life for their unborn babies, despite the violence of their baby’s conception.