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Maryland gov expected to sign bill ending parental rights for rapists

Maryland gov expected to sign bill ending parental rights for rapists
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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appears set to sign a bill that will allow impregnated rape victims to ask a judge to end the parental rights of their attackers.

The measure, titled the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act, unanimously passed both chambers of Maryland’s legislature last week, according to CNN, and received support from Hogan during his State of the State address last week as well.

"No rapist should be allowed to maintain parental rights and no victim should be forced to interact with her attacker," Hogan said during the speech.

With his signature, Hogan could put the bill into effect "potentially within days," according to The Associated Press.

The bill will allow women who become pregnant after being raped to ask a court to end the parental rights of their attacker. A conviction won't be required for a judge to terminate the parental rights if there’s “clear and convincing evidence” of the assailant’s guilt.

Multiple studies estimate that between 17,000 and 32,000 rape-related pregnancies occur each year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Before the bill’s passage, Maryland was one of seven states that allowed rapists to maintain parental rights. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have laws that offer some restriction on the parental rights of rapists, but in 20 of those states and D.C., a rape conviction is required before parental rights can be terminated, according to CNN.

Supporters of the bill have been pushing for its passage for more than a decade, according to The Baltimore Sun. Some Democrats in the state legislature are crediting the "Me Too" movement for the bill’s passage.

"I think we were moving in the direction of getting done this year, period, but I think the 'Me Too' movement certainly helped," Del. Kathleen Dumais told the Sun.

Dumais also said a lack of women on key Maryland legislative committees contributed to the delay in passing the bill.

"There were certainly times, particularly in my first few years, that it always seemed like it was the men versus the women on some of these issues, but as I've been on this committee and become more involved in the issues, really what my committee battles with all the time is a balance between victims' rights and due process,” she said.

Lawmakers will hold one final technical vote before sending the bill to Hogan. During his address last week, he vowed to sign the bill “the moment it reaches my desk."