Sexual assault victim advocates were disappointed when an important bill that would permit a woman, who gives birth as a result of a rape to end parental rights of their assailant, failed to pass the General Assembly.
Advocates feel it is cruel to force a rape victim to face their attacker during every child custody exchange meeting. These women must communicate and consult with the child’s father on matters such as religious practices, summer camps, schools and vacations. The decision to keep the baby can bring years of harassment and intimidation, leaving little room for the victim to recover from her rape.
A negotiating committee, comprised of delegates and state senators worked from copies of various versions of the bill, with only technical details left to finalize as the clock ticked past 11 p.m.
Aids were dispatched to prepare the paperwork, because both chambers still needed to take a final vote on the bill, but it did not come back up.
Chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee and negotiator, Bobby Zirkin, said the print shop in the State House literally couldn’t print the bill fast enough to get it to the House and Senate floor. This was the second failed attempt to pass the bill, but Zirkin vows to revive the measure in 2018.
The episode was not a total failure for sexual assault victim advocates. They were able to secure a bill that would update Maryland’s sexual assault laws, which would help make it easier for victims to secure justice. A bill passed on Monday that will provide considerable additional funding to support sexual assault victims.