Legislators grapple on rapists' parental rights bill
CONCORD — House and Senate negotiators failed to reach agreement Tuesday on a bill allowing a mother to terminate the father’s parental rights of a child conceived during rape, if he is convicted, pleads guilty or found to have committed rape.
Senate Bill 253 was one of several bills this session with overwhelming support, but the House added a provision allowing the mother to accept child support while avoiding contact with her rapist.
Children and Family Law Committee chair Rep. Mary Beth Waltz, D-Bow, said the provision would allow the mother another avenue to seek child support, while the Senate version forces a woman to decide whether to terminate parental rights or go the child custody route with child support.
“A mother should not have to give up her right to child support,” Waltz said.
The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, though, said the provision muddies the waters. She wondered why a woman who would decide to terminate her rapist’s parental rights, would then turn around and seek child support, only reopening her up to contact with her rapist.
What Waltz was proposing would give a woman a false sense of security under the child custody statute, which relies on a court to enforce instead of the domestic violence restraining orders which police enforce, she said.
Waltz said she was willing to put the provision in another section of law, but wanted the woman to be able to receive child support.
Lasky said the Senate version of the bill is a clean break and clearly establishes two separate paths for the mother.
The two sides agreed to meet again at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
The bill has bipartisan support across the political spectrum from the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to the conservative Cornerstone Policy Research, and from the Diocese of Manchester to NARAL NH.