Legislative Roundup: House approves bill to terminate parental rights of rapists
By GARRY RAYNO State House Bureau
CONCORD — Terminating the parental rights of a rapist would be easier for the victim under a bill the House approved Wednesday.
The bill, which has bi-partisan support across the political spectrum, would terminate a man’s parental rights if he is convicted, pleads guilty or nolo contendere to a sexual assault or after a court finds the child was conceived during a rape.
The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, earlier said the victim often has to face the rapist again and again if he exercises his parental rights.
“That is a travesty and continues the victimization of the woman,” she said during debate on the Senate floor last month.
The state’s discretionary law to terminate parental rights would become mandatory with a conviction or guilty plea and if a judicial fact-finding hearing finds the child was conceived during rape.
Currently, parental termination is a two-step process. First the court has to find the parent is negligent, abusive or has abandoned the child or other such findings, and then the court has to determine if terminating parental rights is in the best interest of the child. The two-step process would not change.
The bill is supported by many organizations and activist groups including the N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, the conservative Cornerstone Policy Research, the Diocese of Manchester, Ending the Violence of Dover, NARAL and the N.H. Association of Chiefs of Police.
The bill goes back to the Senate because the House changed the bill to clarify that the mother may collect child support without having contact with her rapist.
On a rare unanimous vote, 327-0, the House approved a bill increasing the penalties for human trafficking and giving victims grater opportunity to seek civil damages against the victimizer.
“This horrific practice happens in New Hampshire,” said Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton. “This bill is based upon the experience of the past four or five years and strengthens state penalties for the trafficking of minors.”
Under Senate Bill 317, minors who are victims of traffickers and convicted of prostitution can have their records expunged. And victims will have up to 10 years to sue their traffickers.
“This bill says in New Hampshire we do not tolerate human trafficking,” said Cushing, “and we find it abhorrent.”
The bill goes back to the Senate because the House changed the length of sentence for trafficking minors from not less than 10 years to seven to 30 years.
Sex abuse prevention
On a 214-107 vote, the House approved a bill establishing a commission to study sexual abuse prevention in elementary and secondary schools, both current practices and what can be done to improve programs.