OLYMPIA – Women who become pregnant from a sexual assault will face fewer legal barriers to terminate the rapist’s parental rights if a bill approved on Monday by the House of Representatives becomes law.
HB 1543, sponsored by Rep. Beth Doglio (D-Olympia) would close a current gap in state law that forces some mothers to co-parent a child that was conceived from a rape.
“Women who become pregnant face tremendous legal challenges when trying to terminate the parental rights of their rapist,” said Doglio, speaking in support of the bill on the House floor. “No woman should ever be forced to co-parent with their rapist.”
About one in three women in Washington experience a sexual assault in their lifetime, according to the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs. The vast majority of rapes are underreported and under prosecuted. The current legal process for terminating the parental rights of a rapist can be impossible for some women to navigate, which forces many rape survivors to co-parent their child with their attacker.
Rachel Gropper from Franklin County told her story to the House Judiciary committee. Rachel was drugged and raped when she was 18.
“I had a sexual assault protection order before a parenting plan,” said Gropper. “I am now forced to co-parent with the man who raped me and it’s very unfair.”
Rep. Doglio’s bill would create a court process that provides rape survivors with a legal pathway to terminate or restrict the rapist’s parental rights by presenting clear and convincing evidence that the pregnancy was a result of the rape.
The bill was approved by the House of Representatives by a vote of 94-2 The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
HB 1543 is Doglio’s second bill to win approval by the full House. Her first House-approved bill, SHB 1738, will help protect Washington’s salmon habitats from toxic copper particles that end up on roadways from automobile brake pads.