Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bill Passes Alaska Senate Making it Easier and Clearer For Mom To Terminate Parental Rights Of Her Rapist

From the Alaska State Senate Democratic Press Office:

JUNEAU - Today, the Alaska State Senate passed SB 134 by Senate Democratic Leader Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage). The legislation clarifies that a parent who chooses to keep a child conceived through rape can sever ties with their rapist, if approved by the court and in the best interest of the child.

In 1987, the Legislature passed a law allowing a mother to terminate a rapist father's parental rights. This law was inserted in AS 25.23, which focuses on adoption. The current termination statute has confused advocates and attorneys. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, has erroneously interpreted Alaska's statute as pertaining only to adoption cases. Family law lawyers within the state of Alaska have claimed they were not aware of the applicability of existing statutes.

"This does not affect a lot of people in this state but is a huge issue for those impacted people. It is important for a woman who becomes pregnant through rape to be able to be aware of her options," said Sen. Gardner. "Without a clear legal protection, a woman could be forced and locked into a long-term relationship with her abuser."

There are currently 45 states with statutes that allow for the parental rights of rapists to be reduced or terminated.

The legislation passed unanimously in the Senate and moves to the Alaska House of Representatives for further consideration.
Members of the press with questions may contact Alaska Senate Democratic Press Secretary, Noah Hanson at 465-5319.

Initially, one might think this should have happened 60 years ago - when Alaska became a state.  And there was legislation, but apparently it wasn't all that well known by attorneys and there was some confusion whether it only related to adoption cases.  (One judge, according to the testimony, interpreted that way.)

And not everything is cut and dried.  One case was discussed in the hearings at Health and Human Services Committee* in which a 13 year old was in a relationship with a young man 'over majority' who was convicted of statutory rape and served prison time.  But the baby was raised, in part, by the paternal grandparents and was attached to them.

Miles Curtis testified on this in support of the bill.  The child was in the maternal grandparents care until he was eight and only recently into the custody of the paternal parents.  The child didn't want to be with the family, hard on the child, hard on the mother, hard on us financially.  The current law was used against the mother.  Problem wasn't with the abuser, but with the state of Alaska who have taken over the role of the parent.  We would like it so that rapists are never in the best interest of the child.  It won't help our case, but for others in the future it will help.

*Testimony on this bill begins at about 1:36 pm on the video.

I'd note that perhaps one reason it took so long for this bill to be heard (first hearing seems to be April 6, 2018)** is that it was sponsored by two Democratic Senators - Berta Gardner and Tom Begich - in the Republican controlled Senate.
**The video says this hearing was April 6, 2018, though the legislative record says April 9.

The bill now goes to the Democratic controlled House where one would expect it to pass fairly easily.

Here's the complete text of the bill.

I'd note that I haven't done a lot of coverage of the state legislature since I spent a session in Juneau in 2010.  Getting around on the state's BASIS website seems a lot easier than it was - particularly getting the video and audio of hearings.

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