COLUMBUS -- The Ohio Senate has given its approval to legislation that would enable rape victims to have the parental rights of their attackers terminated.
SB 207 passed on a unanimous vote and heads to the Ohio House for further consideration.
The legislation establishes a legal process for victims of rape or sexual battery that resulted in the conception of a child to remove convicted perpetrators' parental rights, including consents for adoption, custody and visitation privileges.
About 20 other states have comparable protections on their books.
The legislation was prompted, in part, by Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who kidnapped and imprisoned three women and repeatedly raped and beat them over a 10-year period.
After his arrest, he requested visitation rights with the 6-year-old girl he fathered with one of the victims. The judge denied that request. Castro later committed suicide.
"This problem stretches beyond that horrific example," Sen. Tom Patton, R-Strongsville, said in urging support for the legislation. "Thousands of women who are raped every year become impregnated as a result of their rape. Many carry that innocent child to term and, in states like Ohio, face the constant danger that the rapist could seek parental rights over that child. ... Many rape victims have been forced to endure the unthinkable and have been sued by their own rapist for parental rights."
Sen. Nina Turner, D-Cleveland, offered separate legislation on the same issue and became a co-sponsor on SB 207.
"Ohio is one of 31 states where there is no legal protection for people who are survivors of rape which result in the birth of a child, and many survivors of sexual assault know their attackers," Turner said. "And as current law stands, a rapist father or a rapist mother, which is rare but it could happen, could sue for custody of the child conceived in rape and have the same parental rights as the survivor of the assault."
This is just unjust."