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Will Maryland eliminate parental rights for rapists?

The Maryland Senate is poised to pass some landmark legislation early next year—which many say is long overdue. The proposed bill has failed nine times before, but this time, members of the General Assembly are optimistic that the bill has built up sufficient support to pass. The subject of the bill: paternal rights for rapists.

It could be said that Maryland is behind the times when it comes to developing laws surrounding rapists’ paternal rights. It is one of only six states with no official law on the subject. Under the proposed legislation, a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape would not be forced to give any parental rights to her attacker. Regardless of whether the attacker is convicted, the rape victim can expunge his parental rights.

Both chambers of the General Assembly approved different variations of the bill earlier this year but were unable reach an agreement. Some items in the bill that still need to be ironed out include:

  • Should the law mandate that the names of rape victims be published in a newspaper?
  • Can a child born out of rape strip their father of parental rights without their mother’s consent?
  • What happens in the event that a rapist’s identity is unknown?

There were vocal critics of the General Assembly’s failure to pass the bill in this year’s session, and this defeat has received wide media attention. Legislators believe that this public push well help them to get the bill passed in early 2018. Both the House and the Senate seem motivated to prioritize the bill in next year’s session and negotiate a version that will pass.

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