COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- If a woman is raped and becomes pregnant Ohio law gives the rapist as much parental authority over the child as the mother. A bill to change that has been introduced at the Statehouse.
"Ohio law right now is silent on this kind of issue," said Rep. Nickie Antonio, a Democrat from Lakewood.
Antonio has introduced the Ohio Rape Survivor Child Custody Act with Rep. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton). Ohio law does not currently provide custodial protections for mothers who become pregnant as a result of rape. Consequently, a mother who gives birth as a result of rape can find herself in lengthy custody battles with the rapist or his family.
“No woman who has survived the trauma of sexual assault should have to be further victimized through a custody battle with her rapist,” said Antonio. “However, too often that is precisely the situation in which survivors find themselves.”
If passed, the legislation would prohibit custody, visitation, notice and consent of adoption for men who father children through rape. Specifically, the proposal would apply to fathers that are convicted of sexual assault or to cases where the court determines there to be clear and convincing evidence of sexual assault through a fact-finding hearing. The legislation would also permit a rape victim to file a complaint to terminate parental rights.
“Most states, including Ohio, have provided either no protection or inadequate protection to rape victims who carry their pregnancies to term,” Antonio said. “It is unconscionable.”
In 31 States, including Ohio, the rapist can sue for custody of the child he fathered in rape. If a woman does choose to carry her pregnancy to term, her options are limited to placing the child for adoption or risk having to raise her child with the man who raped her.