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Maryland rapists have child rights after all-male panel fails to protect victims with bill

In Maryland, a rapist has the right to stop his victim from putting her child up for adoption. He can also legally involve himself in the child’s (and thus mother’s) life until the child turns 18 years old. Basically, because there is no law preventing it, a rapist has paternal rights. This madness could have ended last week with a bill, but a panel of five legislators, all men, hit their deadline without finalizing the bill’s text. Rapists get to keep their rights.

Maryland is one of seven states without a law allowing women to terminate parental rights for their rapists, if their child was conceived as a result of sexual assault, according to reproductive rights organization NARAL. The state’s current policy forces survivors to negotiate child custody and adoption issues with their attacker. In a bid to update the draconian policy, Maryland Delegate Kathleen Dumais introduced legislation that would allow a woman to cut her rapist’s parental rights.

But while the bill passed both Maryland’s House and Senate, the bill’s text varied between the two legislative bodies. On Monday, the last day of legislative session, a five-person negotiating group was set to decide on the bill’s final text, the Baltimore Sun reported. Instead, the five-man group let the bill fall by the wayside, running out the legislative session’s clock without finalizing the bill’s text.

This was Del. Kathleen Dumais’ ninth time trying to pass the bill. She’s been working on it for 10 years. She wasn’t allowed to vote on the committee, and no other women were asked.

"Although I have great respect for my colleagues, not having women on the committee was tone-deaf," Sen. Cheryl Kagan said. The Montgomery County Democrat stood over the men at the conference with her arms crossed, overseeing the group with Sen. Delores G. Kelley, a Baltimore Democrat.

"I wanted to watch as the conscience for women and rape survivors," Kagan explained.

The committee members were chosen by Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Robert Zirkin, chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

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