For ten years, a bill has been introduced into the Maryland legislature that would allow women who become pregnant as a result of sexual assault to terminate the parental rights of their assailants.
The woman would need to prove, in short, that the man whose parental rights she is seeking to terminate is the father of her child, that he sexually assaulted her, and that it is in the best interests of the child for the parental rights to be terminated. The proposed burden of proof is “clear and convincing” which is the same standard used throughout family and civil cases, which is lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal court.
Hesitation in passing the bill in the past has come from lawmakers’ constitutional concerns with terminating parental rights if a man has not been convicted of the sexual assault in criminal court.
Currently, the senate has passed one version, and the house has passed a different version. Now they must reconcile the versions and present it to Governor Hogan. Last year, the legislature was working on reconciling the versions between the two chambers but was unable to do so before the session ended in the summer. Governor Hogan has expressed support for the bill, and many Maryland lawmakers are anxious to see the bill pass this year.
The legislature is still in the early stages of the process. This post will be updated as progress is made.