It became a national scandal last month when the media reported that Alabama — which had just been in the headlines for enacting the most extreme abortion ban in the nation — is one of only two states lacking a statute terminating parental rights for a person found to have conceived a child by rape or incest.
Many readers may be shocked to learn that the only other state in the country with a similar record is Minnesota. Women’s rights advocates from around the state, filled with fury and concern, have been working to fix this law for years.
Minnesota’s statutes have been updated continuously to delineate reasons for revoking parental custody — from abandonment to egregious harm — yet there are no statutes governing the parenting, or co-parenting, of a child conceived as a result of rape.
State Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, is introducing a bill in the next legislative session to give the state the authority to revoke the parental rights of an alleged rapist. This bill will include the clear and convincing standards similar to those already on the books in most states in this country. It’s been too long a wait for justice.
Alabama recently doubled down on punishing survivors, but Minnesota must move forward and join the majority of states that protect children from being placed into custody of alleged rapists and give survivors of sexual assault control over their own lives.
The Legislature is on the right road, but it needs to complete the journey of protecting survivors and eliminating a culture of sexual violence and assault. In addition to Dziedzic’s proposed bill, lawmakers approved a task force to examine the state’s sexual assault laws with the goal of making it easier to investigate and prosecute rape cases, as well as a bill to remove special legal protections for spouses and domestic partners accused of sexual assault. In support of this, we will be mobilizing activists throughout the state.
This week, the National Organization for Women (NOW) is holding its annual conference in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. The theme, “Feminist Agenda Rising: Our Time Is Now,” will encourage all NOW members to consider, discuss and create action steps regarding some of the most important issues confronting women today — across all races and in all communities — including the ramifications of sexual assault.
It is time for women, and the children impacted by sexual assault, to gain power, and be safe in their own communities. Leaders working to provide justice for survivors of sexual assault, and children who are conceived as a result of rape, deserve our full support.
Joan Hicks Boone is the president of the Minnesota National Organization for Women (NOW) and Toni Van Pelt is president of NOW. For more information, visit www.now.org
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