Feb. 09, 2015

HARRISBURG— Rep. Joe Hackett (R-Delaware) has introduced bipartisan legislation that will strengthen the rights of rape victims who have a child conceived as a result of the rape.

“When victims of rape choose to give birth to a child, they find that the legal door is left wide open for their victimization to continue,” Hackett said. “It sounds unthinkable, but as the law currently stands, rapists are capable of using their custody measures as a weapon against their victims.”

Under current Pennsylvania law, if a woman gives birth to a child conceived as a result of rape, it is up to the discretion of the court to determine what is in the best interest of the child when considering awarding custody to the rapist.

“Whether it's date rape, a stranger attack or a situation in which the woman doesn't remember the assault, the damage can be profound,” Hackett said. “With grateful input from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), we’ve developed legislation to address obstacles these victims face.”

Hackett’s legislation, House Bill 410, has strong bipartisan support.

“It is disheartening to learn once again that our Commonwealth has failed to adequately protect survivors of rape. Women who become pregnant as a result of this heinous act of violence risk re-victimization when they decide to operate against society’s preconceived notions and become loving and supportive parents,” said Rep. Cherelle Parker (D-Philadelphia). “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues, Reps. Hackett and Mike Schlossberg, as well as PCAR and other advocacy groups to advance this legislation and ensure that survivors of rape are able to raise their children peacefully and without enduring unnecessary financial burdens.”

"If this bill becomes law, mothers will no longer be forced to compromise their physical and emotional well-being for financial security," said Rep. Mike Schlossberg (D-Lehigh). "Protecting the victims of rape is a crucial duty of the Commonwealth, and I believe this bill will allow us to better do that."

House Bill 410 requires that the court take the victim’s wishes into consideration when determining whether custody is granted to the rapist.

This legislation would also maintain the offender’s obligation to pay child support even if the parental rights are terminated.

“Far too often the justice system punishes criminals but forgets to take care of the victims,” Hackett said. “This legislation ensures rape survivors are empowered and their children and families are protected”

This legislation was unanimously adopted by the House last session as amendments to House Bill 945, which ultimately was not considered by the Senate.

Representative Joe Hackett
161st District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: David Foster
RepHackett.com / Facebook.com/RepHackett