CONCORD — House and Senate negotiators wasted little time Thursday coming to an agreement 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 the crime.
Senate Bill 253 was one of several bills this session with overwhelming support but the House added a provision allowing the mother to get child support while avoiding contact with her rapist.
In early negotiations, Children and Family Law Committee chair Rep. Mary Beth Waltz, D-Bow, said the provision allows 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.
But the bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, said the provision muddies the waters. Why would a woman who decides to terminate her rapists parental rights then turn around and seek child support that would open her up to contact with her rapist, she asked.
What Waltz was proposing would give a woman a false sense of security under the child custody statute that relies on a court to enforce the custody law instead of the domestic violence restraining orders that police handle, she said.
Lasky said the Senate version of the bill is a clean break and clearly establishes two separate paths for the mother.On Thursday, Rep. Deanna Rollo, D-Rollinsford, said while the House is willing to agree to the Senate version of the bill, child support for women who seek to terminate the parental rights of the father is an important issue that should be revisited next session.
Lasky agreed and noted there is plenty more work to do in that area of law.
Waltz, who could not be at the meeting, has agreed to sign the report.
The bill has bipartisan support across the political spectrum from the N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to the conservative Cornerstone Policy Research, and from the Diocese of Manchester to National Abortion Rights Action League of NH.
The House and Senate will vote on the agreement next week.