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WASHINGTON — In Alabama, where a new law denies abortion to women even in cases of incest or rape, a rapist may still pursue custody rights of a child conceived during his assault.

I’ll give you a moment to digest that sentence. It gets worse.

In a recent case, a young woman in Alabama sought help when she said her step-uncle, who raped her when she was 15, was being released from prison after a drug conviction and wanted to share custody with the child who resulted from the alleged rape. Theoretically, he could even gain full custody.

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Minnesota is the only other state without a statute terminating parental rights for a person found to have conceived the child by rape or incest.

More than half of the 50 states terminate parental rights when there is “clear and convincing evidence” that the child was conceived during rape. And nearly half terminate parental rights only when a rapist is convicted.

But this is problematic, too.

An estimated three out of four rapes go unreported, and the rate is especially high when the rapist is known to the victim or is a family member. An estimated 90 percent of rape victims know the assailant.

Last month, Alabama lawmakers considered a bill that addressed ending parental rights in cases of rape that result in conception, but the Legislature removed that language, limiting the law to cases in which people sexually assault their children.

As if sexual assault isn’t life-scarring enough, imagine having to engage with one’s rapist through a shared-parenting arrangement.

On the other hand, there’s also the possibility, as some activists suggest, that women might claim rape during custody fights. Marital rape can be a particularly difficult case to make, but precedents do exist. Nothing is as simple as one might hope.

Obviously, we are committed to a presumption of innocence for the accused, but it is inevitable that — especially given the number of unreported rapes — many rapists escape prosecution. Without a police report and a rape kit there may be no way for the mother to prove the assault.

In such cases, co-parenting can become a real possibility. And this prospect might incline some pregnant women to seek an end to the pregnancy.

But in Alabama, their options would be limited. Even though the new law is being challenged in court, it’s already difficult for many people to get an abortion in the state. In 2014, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 93% of counties in Alabama had no clinic that provided abortion.

If Alabama is trying to become the worst state in America for women, its strategy is strong.

In fairness to the unborn, as well as to the strictly pro-life, a child conceived through rape is surely innocent and deserves the same protections as one conceived in holy matrimony. I get that.

But rape and incest have long been accepted as extraordinary circumstances under which abortion could largely be tolerated. What kind of people would effectively force a 15-year-old rape victim to have a child by her step-uncle and then face the prospect of shared custody with him?

It isn’t a stretch to say that, with its new draconian abortion law and its failure to block parenting rights to rapists, Alabama essentially has installed a medieval system in which women are treated as chattel, notwithstanding the duly elected Gov. Kay Ivey, who signed the bill.

Though public stonings haven’t (yet) been suggested for disobedient women, we may not be as far removed from such practices as we might pretend to be.

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Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker can be reached at kathleenparker@washpost.com.

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(33) comments

Jobaba

Ever notice that when a person is pinned down with a logical argument and facts, that person will automatically go to an argument of false equivalence?

Cassandra2

These laws are completely unsurprising when you consider that the anti-abortion laws treat women like property.

martian2

This column is about rapists and their right to have custody to children they created through criminal activity. Absolutely ridiculous! Where is the common sense. The rapist should have no parental rights ever! Why is that so difficult for some to understand. The abortion issue should be discussed on the lowry column.

DMoney

This is crazy. Just as crazy as a woman in NY being able to kill a viable (could survive outside of her womb) fetus late during pregnancy because of literally any threat to her general "health". Shame on our society.

PhysicsIsFun

What the New York law actually says, "The RHA permits abortions when — according to a medical professional’s “reasonable and good faith professional judgment based on the facts of the patient’s case” — “the patient is within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.” In other words, women may choose to have an abortion prior to 24 weeks; pregnancies typically range from 38 to 42 weeks. After 24 weeks, such decisions must be made with a determination that there is an “absence of fetal viability” or that the procedure is “necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.” That determination must be made by a “health care practitioner licensed, certified, or authorized” under state law, “acting within his or her lawful scope of practice.”

DMoney

Thanks for posting that. I completely concur with the authenticity of what you posted. 100% of my concern--and the concern with a majority of Americans-- is found in one generic word: "health". Not mother's life. Not significant and lasting deformity. Not even specifically a physical health threat. By leaving that term open-ended, it allows for ANY health threat. Literally ANY. Emotional, mental, financial. By the law as written, a physician must consider any "health" threat. This WILL (probably already has) resulted in the deaths of healthy babies.

oldhomey

You seem to willfully ignore that the decision is not some unilateral, spur-of-the-moment whim by a woman who has carried a pregnancy for months and now wants out because it will interfere with her lifestyle. There are medical professionals in the middle of this, weighing the circumstances. You want to assume you know that lovely, beautiful babies are being destroyed for no good reason. You know absolutely nothing about the ordeal the mother and the healthcare workers are confronted with. And, for the record, it is not your business, it is not the government's business. Nobody should be allowed to butt in. Back off.

DMoney

Same thing a child abuser says if someone questions their form of "discipline", I'd imagine. There are a lot of twisted, scumbag people out there, friend-o. NY with it's bloated population has plenty of them. If you believe that this law will never be abused--never once-- you are hopelessly ignorant. There's no such thing as perfection in humanity. And NY has taken away the safeguard.

PhysicsIsFun

Here read this. It might give you some insight into the complexity of the issue. Medicine is often ethically complex. (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/20/opinion/abortion-laws.html?smid=fb-nytopinion&smtyp=cur&fbclid=IwAR32j9oIFeT32drb0SwYbI-GCg-EfM-sX9ZW40YIXeWYKUkqb4RQYCugfwM)

PhysicsIsFun

The article is written by a OB*Gyn who was faced with the decision of performing an abortion because the mother was very sick and would probably go into kidney failure and lose her kidneys unless the procedure was done. "I was asked to perform an abortion for a very sick pregnant woman in her first trimester. She had a medical condition that was deteriorating much more rapidly than expected because of her pregnancy. She was not seconds away from dying, but her medical specialists were concerned that, in the next day or two, she would be likely to develop kidney failure. While kidney failure can be managed with dialysis, preventing that from happening is the best medical course. Not only in the short term, but saving my patient’s kidneys also would prevent a cascade of medical events that could end her life prematurely in the long term. After all, life expectancy is shorter on dialysis. That’s why we do renal transplants. My patient’s specialists believed that, if she were not pregnant, they might be able to avoid dialysis. Ending her pregnancy would not save her life that day, but it might next week or next month or in five years. We don’t have crystal balls in medicine, so we often can’t say with certainty who will deteriorate with a given medical condition or precisely when." her conclusion, "The people who write our abortion laws are living in a post-truth world. So let me share some medical truths: Abortion is sometimes medically necessary, and women will have abortions whether they are safe and legal or not. Creating legislation that suggests otherwise does not change that truth."

DMoney

Physics, let's be clear: you and I completely agree on abortions occuring in the first 6 months for reasons that severely impact a woman's health or physical well being. I'm not and have never debated that. Any movement against logical abortion laws (Roe vs Wade) should be fought against. I'm talking about late stage abortion for ANY reason associated with ANY health risk. Are you following me? That's a completely different animal from what you are referencing.

DMoney

And the fact that an innocent child can die for an irresponsible reason is just as extreme as what they are passing down south.

DMoney

Physics I tried the link but I had already reached my free views on NYT website. Can you summarize?

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PhysicsIsFun

And you're still a raving lunatic.

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PhysicsIsFun

How long until this ad hominem attack gets deleted? Ricky is setting some sort of record for getting his comments deleted. When will the Tribune delete his account permanently. He consistently defies the rules of the paper while never adding anything to the discussion. Please Tribune ban this guy Czeczok. He is a menace.

martian2

facts don't matter physics to D or any other right winger. They got their heels dug in thinking doctors and women are going to "execute" babies on a whim, or just for the fun of it. NO getting through to them. Besides, after birth you can leave babies starve out in the street and D could care less, just as long as he doesn't have to foot a penny to help. Sad what society has become indeed!

DMoney

Here's a logical scenario:. Tina likes Fred. Tina dates Fred. Tina gets knocked up by Fred. Tina believes this will bring her and Fred closer together. Fred makes all kinds of grandiose promises because Tina still looks good , no baby bump yet and she puts out. Fast forward 6 months. Tina is now fully showing and emotional from hormones. Fred "didn't sign up for this _____.". Fred disappears. Tina now doesn't want the baby, as having a child wasn't her priority. Tina seeks an abortion. She sees the law in NY. Her "health" must be in jeapordy. Tina tells her "medical professional" she feels suicidal. The "medical professional" has no way to disprove this and doesn't want a wrongful death lawsuit on their hands. The medical opinion is to abort the fetus, which very likely is advanced enough to survive outside the womb. Baby dies, Tina is back on the prowl. Is that really so unrealistic, given how crazy and bad some people can be?

oldhomey

Ah, yes. D, the protector of all living things, the man who says he detests speculation, posits the scenario of the air-headed, slatternly, morality-challenged chippy who carries a baby for seven months or so and decides, since her boyfriend took flight, the baby would be inconvenient. I, of course, cannot counsel D or anybody else on what it is like to carry a pregnancy for seven months, but I am guessing most women would say that they would not willy-nilly abort for the reasons our sexist friend, D, is so smarmily laying out for the rest of us. But guys like him don't have to make sense when it comes to being judgemental about women. They think they know.

DMoney

In our society there are murderers, rapists, thieves, liars, terrorists, cheaters, extremists, abusers, drug addicts. Thankfully they represent a minority. But there they are. You can't dispute this. Yet, my scenario is far-flung? Let's do a little math: If A is the people above, and B is an open abortion law, what does C equal? You can't logically or possibly say that the worst case won't/can't happen. You called me racist the other day, now sexist. You backtracked and apologized for your race comment. Without divulging too many personal details--let's suffice it to say I'm SURROUNDED by females on a daily basis. You want to stand by that comment?

DMoney

And yes I do consider myself a protector of all living things. Flies and mosquitos are about the only thing I will purposely kill. If you and I were in a building, and a gunman entered and I was armed, you can bet I'd risk my life to save yours. Just don't ask me to borrow you $5 afterwards. Protect does not equal support.

oldhomey

Why yes, indeed, D, I will stand my statement that you are a sexist. Your scenario of the air-headed floozies waiting until into their third trimester of pregnancies to decide to abort healthy babies is prima facie evidence of that, and is prima facie evidence of a remarkably stupid theory on your part. As for being surrounded by women daily, probably not nearly as much as Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Hugh Hefnerand other notable sexists were daily surrounded by women. Is that your argument to disprove that you are sexist? As for your sexist theory about the air-headed bimbos seeking out late term abortions, you can't go around making up nonsensical theories and then seriously present them as factual reasoning to bolster your argument. Post some evidence, please. If you think your 6:43pm post is laying out the "facts", well, D, it is another of the most foolish things you have ever posted. real head scratcher. "Let's do a little math," you say, then you proceed to do no math at all, presenting instead nonsensical blather. You should hope that it does not become "far-flung", as it makes you look like a class A fool. And, absolutely, a sexist.

DMoney

I'm tempted to divulge some personal details about myself and my life just to put you in your place. But I won't, because it really doesn't matter. I'll just shake my head at this one.

DMoney

Also, did it occur to you that Fred, a male, is just as bad as Tina in my scenario? Seem to have skipped right over that little detail. Wouldn't make for such gratifying labelling for you.

PhysicsIsFun

What about Fred? How does his behavior fit into this equation? There seem to be no consequences for his bad behavior. How many women can he abandon after 6 months of pregnancy because he has lost interest? You seem to conveniently forget about him. What exactly do you mean when you but medical provider in parentheses?

DMoney

Physics--ok--lets punish Fred somehow. I'm open to that concept and I think the other party should have a price to pay for such wreckless behavior. Is join you in that movement. But it doesn't let Tina off the hook and the baby is entirely innocent and should at least have the chance to breathe oxygen (it's capable after 6 months). Take the baby away, put it up for adoption, make it a ward of the state. Whatever. Give it a chance. "Medical professional" refers to the non-physicians who can now authorize life or death in New York.

PhysicsIsFun

So the only medical practitioner who is capable of making this decision according to you is a physician? The law indicates the following, “health care practitioner licensed, certified, or authorized”. This is explained to include nurse practitioners and physician assistants who are licensed and board certified in the appropriate field. This is even more specific than the criteria for physicians. A podiatrist is a physician. I think that a nurse practitioner certified in neonatal medicine or obstetrics and gynecology would be more appropriate. What this amounts to is trusting a mother to get appropriate medical advise from a medical practitioner with expertise in the area of medicine most applicable to the situation. The law does that.

DMoney

Semantics. I frankly don't care if clowns were now authorized to decide. It doesn't change the fact that it's now easier to get a late term abortion there that allows for greater human error.

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PhysicsIsFun

Since you brought up the subject Little Ricky, I will respond. I do not think everyone who disagrees with me is stupid. I do however, think that you are stupid.

Cassandra2

D-Bag, once again, has to resort to lies to support his ridiculous position.

DMoney

Think about drug addicted, morally corrupt people (men and women of all races) living in NYC. If my scenario is a "lie", then I'd wager you've never left the cozy confines of Western Wisconsin.

oldhomey

Spoken like a true provincial, D, in your 6:49pm post. You obviously seem to have retreated to the Coulee Region from southern California because it overwhelmed you. Now you equate large population centers with being evil. Ahem. there are millions upon millions of drug addicted, morally corrupt people in the most rural of places in this nation. It is a huge problem. Even in the "cozy confines" of western Wisconsin. How do you think we can deal with these problems when we have voters like you making up false, faulty, ungrounded scenarios about classes of people you want to blame for the ills of society?

DMoney

So Cal is one of the majority of large cities I've spent a lot of time in. For a good portion of my adult life, I spent more time in these cities (LA, Philly, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix etc.) than I did home in WI. I know all too well how they work and how many corrupt people (of all races an both sexes) live in them. Bad people are everywhere but they are concentrated on these cities. New York is the biggest of them. Logic dictates that if you give them the opportunity, bad people will make terrible choices. I'm surprised I need to explain this to someone with so much life experience.

oldhomey

Well, my naive younger friend, let me explain something to you. You acknowledge that "bad people are everywhere", so you drastically weaken your argument that they are concentrated in large cities. We know that given the opportunity bad people will make terrible choices. Just look at Donald Trump. But large cities are no more prone to corruption and bad political choices than much more rural places. I will not argue that corruption is present everywhere. That is why the power of the vote is every bit as crucial today as it has ever been in the history of the republic. We could start with gerrymandering in Wisconsin as an example of how a minority party corruptly holds on to out-sized power. The most corrupt political systems in the U.S. are the southern states, which rail against federal taxation, even though they get far more per capita in federal dollars spent than any of the more progressive states.

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