Schlossberg, Parker, bipartisan group seek changes in rapist child support law

HARRISBURG, Feb. 9 – State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, and  Rep. Cherelle Parker, D-Phila., announced today at a news conference that they are partnering with Rep. Joseph Hackett, R-Delaware, to support legislation that would that would update Pennsylvania’s domestic relations law as it pertains to support and custody of children conceived by rape or incest.

At the news conference, Schlossberg explained that current Pennsylvania law makes terminating a rapist's parental rights complicated. As it stands now, a victim who chooses to keep a child who was conceived as the result of a rape may have to endure continued forced interactions with a rapists through visitation. If the victim is able to convince a court to terminate parental rights, the perpetrator would be relieved of his duty to financially support the child.  

"If this bill becomes law, mothers will no longer be forced to compromise their physical and emotional well-being for financial security," Schlossberg said. "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 would resolve this issue by granting the courts authority to terminate the parental rights of a convicted rapist, thereby eliminating the abuser's access to custody of the child. The bill would also preserve the offender's child support obligation even if parental rights are terminated. The legislation is supported by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and other advocacy groups.

"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."

"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," Parker said. "I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues, Reps. Hackett and Schlossberg, as well as the 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."  

Last session, the House Judiciary Committee approved similar legislation introduced by Schlossberg, and a similar provision was approved by the House, but was never taken up by the Senate. Schlossberg said he was optimistic that his colleagues on both sides of the aisle would understand the importance of this bill and pass it without delay.