Jane, a 14-year-old high school student became pregnant as a result of rape. Her assailant plead guilty to rape charges in 2011 and was sentenced and ordered to pay child support. He then petitioned the family court arguing that if he was to pay child support he should also be entitled to parental visitation rights.
Jane and her parent’s attorney answered the petition arguing that the court ordered child support further “violates her rights by binding her to an unwanted 18-year legal relationship with her assailant.” Few words can describe the horror Jane experienced at the hands of her rapist.
Yet, even after Jane’s assailant was arrested, prosecuted, and convicted, he continued to torment Jane and her family using the legal tool of parental visitation and rights that he gained solely as a result of a violent crime. Currently, Georgia does not permit a rape survivor who conceives a child to terminate the parental rights of her assailant. Georgia is not alone. Nineteen states, including the District of Columbia, offer no protections for rape survivors who become pregnant as a result of rape.
In 2013, I was contacted by Jane and several other rape survivors who expressed their frustration and felt that it was time to change the laws in Georgia. In response, I drafted HB 397 to end the torment and further violation of these women by terminating the parental rights of rapists.
While my bill did not receive the traction that I, and dozens of survivors and their families, had hoped for, I am encouraged that we have another opportunity to address this legal travesty. For this reason, I encourage you to reach out to your Senator and Representative to sign on and support HB 713, introduced by my distinguished colleague, Rep. Brad Ratffensperger, R-Johns Creek. If passed into law, this bill will help prevent predators that commit these heinous acts of violence and abuse from continuing to violate women and their children and may help to reduce the number of pregnancies terminated due to rape.
HB 713 has been assigned to the Juvenile Justice Committee. I strongly encourage you to join Rep. Raffensperger and me in supporting this important legislation to protect our women and children.