New Bill Would Keep Rapists from Parental Rights

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In Columbus, state lawmakers are working on a bill to protect rape victims who conceive children. WOUB’s Caleigh Bourgeois is at the Statehouse with more.

A CNN article by Shauna Prewitt inspired the proposed legislation to protect rape victims who conceive during the attacks but the recent case of Ariel Castro brought more attention to the issue.

Castro kidnapped and kept 3 women in his house for ten years, but after he was caught, four young women emerged from his Cleveland home.

Castro had fathered a child with victim Amanda Berry through rape, and under Ohio law, was permitted to ask a judge for visitation.

The bill, discussed yesterday in a state senate legislative committee would change that.

Senator Nina Turner is leading the bill, which will terminate parental rights of rapists to children conceived during rape.

Sen. Nina Turner (D) of District 25 spoke before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee in support of the bill.

In an interview with WOUB News, she said, "I know it’s hard for people to think that somebody would try to get parental rights on a child conceived under rape, but it does happen."

In Castro’s case, the judge decided to deny parental rights, but if the new bill is passed, judges must automatically revoke parental rights from convicted rapists, if the child was conceived during the rape.

While the bill was written by pro-choice Democrats, it’s supported by conservative pro-life group Right to Life, who released a press release praising the bill as pro life. 

Kayla Smith, director of legislative affairs for the group said of both Republicans and Democrats, "We both can recognize that there's a baby that needs to be protected in the case of rape."

The bill is still in its early drafts, and changes to be made were brought up in the meeting yesterday.

It works in combination with another bill dealing with dissolution of parental rights for rapists male or female.


Caleigh Bourgeois is a fellow in Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. Follow her on Twitter @caleighreports.