052813br0228WOAK PARK – A new law sponsored by State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) will ensure that victims of rape who choose to carry a child to term don’t have to share parental rights with the men who raped them.

“Rape is a terrible, traumatic experience. When a victim of rape conceives a child and is brave enough to carry the baby to term, she shouldn’t have to worry about the man who attacked her seeking parental rights,” Harmon said.

The new law, originally House Bill 3128, establishes that rapists and their families are not entitled to visitation, custody or inheritance rights. It also gives the mother the right to refuse child support.

“This law aligns custody and visitation matters involving women who conceive through rape with other custody and visitation cases – they all will be decided based on the same burden of proof now,” said Shauna Prewitt, who helped bring the legislation forward. “Rape victims seeking to parent are no longer penalized in Illinois. Today, Illinois legislators have given women who conceive through rape an opportunity to be heard in the family courts.”

Under previous law, mothers needed criminal convictions before they could strip their rapists of their parental rights. The new law will allow mothers to seek fact-finding hearings to determine with clear and convincing evidence that their children were conceived through non-consensual sex. In some cases, there is enough evidence to prove a child was conceived by rape, but not enough to convict the rapist. In other cases, the court hearings take years, while the fact-finding hearing could take place much more quickly.

This law is a continuation of Sen. Harmon’s efforts to protect the rights of women. He passed the original law that stripped convicted rapists of their parental rights in 2006. He also has passed several laws guaranteeing the rights of breast-feeding mothers and strengthening child support enforcement.