Legal Issues in Raising a Child Conceived During a Rape

Shauna Prewitt wrote a heart-wrenching essay that was on the CNN website today.  “Raped, pregnant and ordeal not over,” presents the issues she faced when raising a child conceived when she was raped.  She chose to have the baby and not to give it up for adoption but to raise it on her own.  Prewitt is a lawyer and wrote an article for the Georgetown Law Journal, “Giving Birth to a “Rapist’s Child”: A Discussion and Analysis of the Limited Legal Protections Afforded to Women Who Become Mothers Through Rape,” in 2010.

It is not easy reading but really provides a lot of information on the legal hurdles involved.  She writes about state laws that can require women to notify the men who raped them that they have fathered a child.  Some states do not require this if the woman puts the baby up for adoption, but do if she keeps the baby.  Looking at the footnotes it appears that Pennsylvania is among them, but I have not done the legal research to confirm this.

Given that in America people are presumed innocent until proven guilty, women who keep a baby conceived in rape may have to provide visitation rights to the rapist until he is convicted, if he is convicted.  If he isn’t convicted those visitations and custody issues can continue.  Ending someone’s parental rights can be (and should be, in most circumstances) difficult; but in these cases it is easy to understand the women’s wish to do so.

The examples in the article are painful to read but this article provides information on a topic that we seldom hear about, and explains some of the legalities involved.  I hope some of our state legislators will review it and pursue legislative solutions to some of the problems women in this situation have.  

[Cross-posted from Above Average Jane]

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