By Kelly Barrett
In Alabama, a survivor of rape can be forced to co-parent with their rapist. Further exacerbating the problem of rapist parents are abortion bans passed in several states in recent years. Alabama’s 2019 abortion ban, which was preliminarily enjoined by a federal court as applied to pre-viability abortions, mixes with Alabama’s absence of laws allowing for termination of parental rights based on rape to create a toxic environment for rape survivors. Women should be free to choose to terminate their pregnancies, and rape survivors should not be forced to have their children and potentially be forced to enter into a co-parenting relationship with their rapist.
Alabama’s abortion ban legislation does not allow for abortions at any stage of pregnancy, except in limited health related circumstances that do not include rape or incest. Thus forcing a woman to have a child if she does not act quickly after conception to end her pregnancy or seek a risky illegal abortion (as noted here in amicus briefs in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt and June Medical Services v. Gee, many women may be at risk for health complications or death if they pursue unregulated illegal abortions). Further as far as risks to women’s health, childbirth is a greater risk than an abortion.
Thirty-two states allow for termination of parental rights based on if the rapist was convicted of sexual assault against the mother. Twenty states have legislation limiting parental rights of rapists (with some overlap). However, in contrast with some states that allow for termination of parental rights based on any conviction for rape or sexual assault (including Kansas and Massachusetts), or that do not require a conviction at all (Alaska and Colorado for example), Alabama requires a conviction for rape in the first degree, sodomy in the first degree or incest in order for parental rights to be terminated for this reason.… <Read More>