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All-Male Panel Fails To End Law That Forces Women To Share Custody With Their Rapists

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In the state of Maryland, women are forced, by law, to share custody with their rapists, with no legal avenue to terminate parental rights for their attackers. Five state legislators could have ended that policy. But for some inexplicable reason, the panel of only men let the clock run out before doing something about it.

The state’s current policy forces survivors to negotiate child custody and adoption issues with their abusers. In an effort to end the draconian policy, Democratic Delegate Kathleen Dumais introduced legislation that would allow a woman to cut her rapist’s parental rights.

On Monday, the last day of legislative session, a five-person panel (all male) was set to decide on the bill’s final text. Instead, according to The Baltimore Sun, the five legislators let the bill fall by the wayside, running out the legislative session’s clock without finalizing the bill’s text.

The panel consisted entirely of men: Del. David Moon, Del. Brett Wilson, Del. Joseph Vallario Jr. (pictured above), Sen. William Smith, Sen. Robert Zirkin, and Sen. Michael Hough.

The Maryland General Assembly’s is not scheduled to reconvene until its 2018 session begins on January 10. But for Maryland women with children conceived by rape, the state’s current law can mean situations of urgent danger.

“For those who choose to carry to term, a woman who becomes pregnant through rape runs the risk that the rapist will assert his parental rights,” NARAL’s Maryland branch wrote in a statement of support for Dumais’s bill.

“If she chooses to raise the child herself, it could mean her rapist inserting himself into her life for the next 18 years. The perpetrator may also hinder efforts to place the child up for adoption. In some extreme cases, rapists have only agreed to allow an adoption to go forward if the victim promised not to testify against him at Trial.”

Dumais has championed a number of bills advocating for sexual assault survivors’ rights. But Dumais’s parental rights bill has proved tougher to pass. The Maryland delegate has attempted to pass eight previous versions of the bill, all of which failed in the General Assembly.

The panel finally convened Monday evening. But rather than agree on a finalized version of the bill, the five men appeared to strike some kind of bargain, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Republican Sen. Michael Hough announced “we’re good,” before the commission ran out the clock on the legislation. With no revised text with which to present the General Assembly, the bill failed, despite having passed both houses.

Dumais reportedly left the session close to tears as the bill she had worked nearly a decade to pass had been abandoned again, this year on a technicality that ran the urgent bill out of time.

CORRECTIONS:
We ‘ve previously reported that all members of the panel were Republicans. That was an error. Several of the panel members were Democrats, including long-time supporters of the bill, Senator Will Smith, and Delegates David Moon and Brett Wilson.

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