HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsored by Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne), that would strengthen the rights of rape victims who have conceived a child as a result of the crime, was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives. House Bill 410
will next be considered by the Senate.
“Every year, an estimated 33,000 rape victims nationwide become pregnant,” said Toohil. “When the child is born, some victims find that the legal door is left wide open for their revictimization. It sounds unthinkable, but as the law currently stands, the victim is forced to spend her own precious resources to defend herself once again from the rapist.”
Under current Pennsylvania law, if a woman gives birth to a child conceived as the result of rape, it is up to the discretion of the court to determine what is in the best interest of the child when awarding custody.
House Bill 410 would require that the court not grant custody to the rapist if the victim objects. However, the victim’s objection can be overcome if the child is of suitable age and consents to the order; and the court determines the award is in the best interest of the child.
The measure would also maintain the rapist’s obligation to pay child support even if his parental rights are terminated.
Paternity of the child must be established by blood, genetic, or other testing acceptable to the court, with the cost borne by the rapist.
“Far too often, the justice system punishes criminals but forgets to take care of the victims,” Toohil added. “House Bill 410 would ensure that rape survivors are empowered and their children and families are protected for years to come.”
This legislation was unanimously adopted by the House last session as amendments to House Bill 945, which ultimately failed to be considered by the Senate.
For more information on Toohil and her legislative priorities, please visit RepToohil.com
Representative Tarah Toohil
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office