A bill that will sever the parental rights of a rapist if a child is conceived as a result of the attack, passed the House on Tuesday by a vote of 115-0. The bill (SB 964), sponsored by Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott.
Current law allows for the court to terminate a parent's right if the termination is in the best interest of the child but does not include rape as grounds for termination of parental rights.
Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth, sponsor of the House companion bill, said that "it's important to bring our laws into conformity with the 21st century." But "the fact that we would allow a father, a rapist, to petition the court for parental rights, and that court would not have the authority to not grant the petition under our current statuatory law is deplorable quite frankly.
Kerner, an attorney, former Lake Worth police officer and special prosecutor, said he believes the bill can do more than modernize the law.
"The truth is it will do something," he said. "First and foremost you'll see that victims will come out of the woodwork to proactively terminate their parental rights against the rapist even if that rapist isn't trying to assert his parental rights."
Kerner said women who are "concerned or scared because they've been contacted by the father of the child that was conceived in raped" will petition the court for termination of parental rights.
"But perhaps most importantly," he said, the bill can help women who become pregnant as a result of rape and "out of a fear of being bound to that rapist for the rest of her life, has an abortion becuase they're afraid if they bring the baby into the world, he's going to have a nexus through parental rights to both her and the child. This will alleviate that fear."