Pa. House may make it easier to terminate rapists’ parental rights

The dome of the Pennsylvania Capitol is visible in Harrisburg.

The dome of the Pennsylvania Capitol is visible in Harrisburg. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

There is a specific provision in state law that applies to parental rights in cases where a child is born after a rape. It allows the victimized parent to petition a state court to terminate their rapist’s parental rights.

However, some lawmakers say the 30-year-old statute has a flaw: it’s written in a way that could require the survivor to have a surrogate second parent lined up to adopt their child before they can legally force their rapist out of the picture.

“Current law doesn’t even allow them to petition for that until another parent is in place,” said Representative Kerry Benninghoff, the Centre County Republican sponsoring the bill. “I suspect at one time, it was to make sure people had financial abilities. But there are a lot of single women doing a great job raising their families.”

Benninghoff’s proposal would get rid of the second-parent requirement.

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It passed the Judiciary Committee unanimously, with enthusiastic support from Democrats like Representative Dan Miller, of Allegheny County.

“It’s one of those ridiculous scenarios,” he said of the existing law. “That’s a nice way of saying it.”

The bill now heads to the full House for consideration.

Benninghoff, who serves as majority whip, said he’s asking fellow chamber leaders to get it on the calendar soon.

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