Senate Bill 2185 making its way through the North Dakota Legislature is intended to allow the Court to terminate the parental rights of a parent if the child is a result of a rape. The bill unanimously passed the Senate on January 16th. Yesterday, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Kim Koppelman, offered an amendment to exempt Courts from terminating parental rights “if the parent is married to the victim of the sexual act.” A majority of the committee adopted the amendment on voice-vote. It is an outrage.
To be clear, parental rights would only be terminated if requested or petitioned to the Court. It would take place after an individual had been found guilty or plead guilty of rape and determined in the best interest of the child. A judge would be involved throughout the process. In other words, this wouldn’t take place based on an accusation.
The Court may not terminate the parental rights of a parent…if the parent is married to the victim of the sexual act.
– Rep. Kim Koppelman, Chairman of House Judiciary Committee reading his amendment to the Committee
Koppelman is trying to defend his ridiculous amendment after it has rightly caused public outrage. His amendment is not currently available online. A source tells me House Leadership may be keeping the bill in his Committee so they reconsider what they did to a good bill. Koppelman is on record claiming the push-back on his amendment is blown out of proportion. He is wrong.
Last year, the National Conference on State Legislatures shared that “studies over the last two decades estimate that there are between 17,000 and 32,000 rape-related pregnancies in the United States each year.” Federally, there is an increase in federal funding under the Violence Against Women Act for states that have a “law permitting mothers of children conceived through rape to seek termination of parental rights of their rapists.” Senate Bill 2185 would put North Dakota in that category. Koppelman’s amendment to exempt rape if it happened in a marriage may jeopardize federal funding under the Violence Against Women Act.
There was no opposition to this bill in either Chamber when it was introduced. Forty-five other states have similar legislation to SB 2185 and not one of them has the exception Koppelman offered. It is unnecessary and without rationale.
Rape is rape no matter if you’re married to the perpetrator. Kim Koppelman must reconsider his amendment and pass the bill as it was introduced before him. Victims in North Dakota deserve better.