Missouri could become the fifth state in the nation to have accused rapists lose parental rights of their children born from alleged rape and still require them to pay child support. A state House committee is considering HB1399 that bill sponsor Bruce DeGroot, R-Chesterfield, calls common sense legislation. It would also allow the courts to decide if some medical expenses should be covered, if their children should be the beneficiaries of their life insurance benefits and if their children have the rights to their inheritance.
Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, says she agrees with the intent but is concerned about a potential legal argument.
“How is it that you can terminate somebody’s parental rights but not terminate the parental rights to the extent that they are still financially obligated to the child,” she asks. “If you want the money, then you’re going to have to do it from the paternity angle. If you don’t want the money, then terminate the parental rights. “But I don’t think that you can have your cake and eat it too so to speak.”
Colleen Coble with the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence supports ending their parental rights but disagrees with also allowing suspected rapists to pay child support.
“Let’s start with putting that piece in law – of allowing a mother and a child to legally separate themselves from the person who caused harm through violence,” Coble says.
Coble, a former Columbia City Councilwoman, says there is a growing practice of accused rapists filing before their court trial for custody of their child to prove to the court that the incident was consensual and they wish to be a good parent.
“The reality of having to continue to go to court and face your rapist or face the prospect of co-parenting for your child’s life until they are of age, is horrific.”
Rep. Nathan Beard, R-Sedalia, also questions how the legislation would work in adoption cases.
Other states with such a law are reportedly Colorado, Arkansas, Illinois and Oregon.