Committee says law already protects children born of rape from mother’s attacker

By Megan Banta
The Statehouse File

INDIANAPOLIS—Lawmakers spent an hour Wednesday debating a proposal that would permit a court to terminate the parental rights of rapists whose victims became pregnant. But the group eventually voted 7-1 that the legislation wasn’t necessary.

Rep. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, listens and takes notes as the Child Custody and Support Advisory Committee discusses a bill that would allow for the termination of the parental rights of rapists. Glick was the only member to vote against the committee’s decision to recommend that the legislation is unnecessary. Photo by Megan Banta, TheStatehouseFile.com

The proposal, authored by Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, passed the Senate during the 2012 session of the Indiana General Assembly.

Then it bogged down in the House over details about how it would be implemented. So lawmakers sent the legislation to the Child Custody and Support Advisory Committee to be studied, said Andy Hudgens, the committee’s attorney.

Committee members agreed Wednesday that attackers shouldn’t have custody of the children born as a result of a rape. But lawmakers concluded that current legislation and judicial discretion provide enough protection.

Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, said “you can get almost to the point where we want to get” under current statutes.

“We can get support or not. We can get a protective order. We just can’t get official termination,” she said. “After you see all the remedies that are available already, nobody’s telling me why we need this bill.”

Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, was the only committee member to vote against the recommendation.

Glick said she was concerned that by not passing a law allowing for termination, legislators are permitting the rapists to still have contact with the children they father.

“I think it’s a bad idea to continue any kind of relationship,” she said.

Glick said as prosecuting attorney for LaGrange County, she saw cases “where there should be absolutely no contact ever.”

But Peter Nugent, a criminal law attorney in Indianapolis, said termination of parental rights only becomes an issue when paternity is established. Nugent said he has never heard of a rapist or a rape victim seeking paternity.

Tallian said that, like most issues that come before the General Assembly, this bill was based on one specific case.

Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, said it’s not fair to tie the hands of the judicial system based on just one case.

“We don’t have cookie-cutter crimes,” she said. “Some of the things that are going on in our country are just mind-boggling.”

Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, discusses a bill that would allow for the termination of the parental rights of rapists. The Child Custody and Support Advisory Committee voted 7-1 to recommended that the legilsation is unnecessary. Photo by Megan Banta, TheStatehouseFile.com

Glick maintained termination would be the best option for both a victim and her child, as it would ensure that the rapist would never have contact with the child – not even through paying child support.

But Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, who was a House advisor for the bill during this year’s session, said that freeing the rapist from paying child support would be “not only rewarding that person but placing an extra burden on society.”

And Nugent said “termination is such an extreme measure” and that the way the system currently works allows for judges to make the best decision for the child in each case.

Rep. Randy Frye, R-Greensburg, the committee’s chairman, said while the group deemed the legislation unnecessary, Charbonneau can still introduce another version of the bill during the next session.

Megan Banta is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. 

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