ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A Maryland Senate panel heard from supporters of a bill that would strip rapists of parental rights to any babies born from their crimes.
Various forms of the bill have been before the General Assembly for a decade.
Speaking before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, Laure Ruth, with the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, told the members, “Every year when we do this bill, I tell you all that this was the very first bill that I testified on back in 2008, and here I am once again.”
Opposition to the bill in the past was based on concerns that the provisions would include cases where rape was alleged but not proven, as well as cases in which there was a conviction.
Del. Kathleen Dumais told the panel Thursday that over the years, the bill had been strengthened to address those concerns. “Part of this legislative process has resulted in the inclusion of strong due process protections,” she said. After the hearing, Dumais expressed optimism that the bill would finally pass.
Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch made the bill a priority, and Gov. Larry Hogan has also voiced his support.
“It is a priority of both chambers. And that’s the reason I think we’ll get it done,” said Dumais.
Lisae Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said she is taking nothing for granted: “Incrementally, we’ve gotten the bill stronger and stronger. It’s past time that it should pass. We need to give women access to the courts.”
“I don’t believe it’s over until it’s over,” she added.
Supporters are hoping that the bill will pass each chamber without any changes, but during Thursday’s hearing, Sen. Michael Hough questioned some of its wording.
He suggested striking some of the language regarding what would be in the best interest of the child. “I just think there’s opportunity to make it better,” he said, referring to the current draft of the bill.
After the hearing, Jordan, referring to Hough’s concerns, said, “I would suggest respectfully to him, to let us pass this bill, let women have access to the courts, and if there are things we need to address in the future, we can do it then.”
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