Rapists should not get parental rights

Yet Leg­is­la­ture OK’d law in ’14 al­low­ing it

Boston Herald - - NEWS - Wendy MUR­PHY

An Ari­zona woman in a veg­e­ta­tive state who has been liv­ing in a nurs­ing home for more than a decade gave birth Dec. 29 to a baby boy, but that’s not the most re­volt­ing part of the story. The man who raped and im­preg­nated her is con­sid­ered the child’s fa­ther, with full parental rights.

Thanks to Brock Turner and Bill Cosby, it’s not un­usual to hear about a man as­sault­ing a de­fense­less, un­con­scious woman. But the Ari­zona case is a whole new level of aw­ful be­cause, as­sum­ing cops iden­tify the guy through DNA test­ing, the vic­tim’s fam­ily could be forced to bring the child to the prison vis­i­ta­tion cen­ter on Fa­ther’s Day.

Many states have laws that per­mit courts to take away parental rights from im­preg­na­tion rapists, but few pre­vent the rights from ever com­ing into be­ing in the first place. Ari­zona is among a hand­ful of states that have no laws at all to pre­vent rapists from seek­ing cus­tody and vis­i­ta­tion. Sounds ter­ri­ble, but Mas­sachusetts is worse be­cause the law here PER­MITS rapists to seek cus­tody and vis­i­ta­tion.

In 2014 the Mas­sachusetts Leg­is­la­ture se­cretly en­acted a law to rec­og­nize parental rights, even for con­victed rapists who im­preg­nate their vic­tims. The law gives rapists lever­age they can use to threaten and in­tim­i­date vic­tims — e.g., “don’t tes­tify and I won’t seek vis­i­ta­tion.” The law es­pe­cially harms re­li­gious rape vic­tims who won’t choose abor­tion. In no other area of law do we force crime vic­tims to have a le­gal re­la­tion­ship with their at­tack­ers. It’s like telling a vic­tim of home in­va­sion that the crim­i­nal has own­er­ship rights over the vic­tim’s prop­erty be­cause he painted a mu­ral on the wall dur­ing the crime. Since when do we give crim­i­nals re­wards for their be­hav­ior, much less the no­ble re­ward of fa­ther­hood?

You’d think law­mak­ers would want to de­ter rapists from caus­ing preg­nancy and trans­mit­ting dis­ease. In­stead, they passed a law that en­cour­ages that.

Who knows what poi­son was on tap at the State House the day leg­is­la­tors thought it was a good idea to re­fer to im­preg­na­tion rapists as “Daddy.” Maybe law­mak­ers as­sumed DNA alone man­dated the cre­ation of parental rights. But they knew that was not true of sperm donors, who can’t even file pa­pers in court to try to get vis­i­ta­tion rights with their bi­o­log­i­cal off­spring. How can rapists have bet­ter rights than sperm donors?

DNA is im­por­tant, but it’s not ev­ery­thing, and when the DNA is from a rapist it should cause ex­tra pun­ish­ment, not rights.

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