Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
In the past nine sessions of the Maryland General Assembly, Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-Montgomery) has sponsored a bill that would allow a person who conceived a child as a result of rape to petition the court to terminate the parental rights of their attacker.
Legislators considered these protections so urgent that the legislation was marked as an emergency bill, meaning that it will become effective upon enactment. Despite previous controversy over the lack of a required child support provision and a lower burden of proof, passing this bill is the right move.
Allowing victims of rape to terminate parental rights is crucial to provide for the safety and comfort of both parents and children. Post-birth interactions and harassment from the attacker can be more easily prevented if that person does not legally hold parental rights.
Adoption becomes easier, and the victim is never forced to face their attacker in court, which can cause more undue trauma. In passing this act, Maryland will become one of about 30 states to have legislation that allows for the severing of parental rights in cases of rape.
As Hogan has stated, "nine years is too long to wait." Maryland legislators are honorable to join the other states that seek justice for rape survivors and their families. To have the bill come this far and fail, especially in its 10th attempt, would have been a waste and a tragedy. It shows a commitment to the physical, mental and emotional health of survivors.
Though some legislators and supporters of the bill believed it did not do enough, it is a huge first step — and an essential one — to get the main provisions enacted.
A child support provision can be proposed and enacted later, if legislators find it necessary. But for now, it is incredibly important for the state government to stand with these brave families and keep making steps to prevent them from living in fear of intimidation, harassment or endangerment.
The Rape Survivor Family Protection Act is essential for the well-being of the residents of Maryland, and its passing suggests the ongoing fight for justice for rape survivors and their families is very promising.
Michela Dwyer is a sophomore English and philosophy major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.