June 16, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
In this piece I discussed the nuanced and pro-father stance of an article out of New Zealand. There, a 36 year old woman raped an 11 year old boy repeatedly over several months, eventually became pregnant by him and bore a child. As I said, there he’s entitled to go to court and seek parental rights if he wishes, but if he doesn’t, he’s under no obligation to her to pay support. All things considered, that’s as it should be.
But contrast that to the United States. Here, in many states, he’s a father due to his biology despite the fact that the law says he was too immature to consent to sex and, given the fact that he’s not even a teenager yet, is in no position emotionally, psychologically or financially to be a father to the child. All of that prevents him from enjoying the pleasure and fulfillment of fatherhood, but none of it prevents him from paying to support a child he likely had no idea he was creating.
Unlike New Zealand, where power is in the boy’s hands – to opt into or out of fatherhood – many states here do the opposite; they treat him like an adult despite the facts that (a) he’s not one and (b) the criminal law recognizes (a).
Into the bargain, the article I linked to quoted an advocate for male children of sexual abuse and even pointed out that the child, in reporting his predicament to his principal, blamed himself for what had happened. That’s the type of nuance and pro-father/pro-child take on such a situation we almost never see, and it was refreshing because of that.
So the contrast between the New Zealand article and this one out of Pennsylvania is striking (Lehigh Valley Live, 6/11/14). It seems the Pennsylvania legislature is poised to pass a bill that would require a rapist to pay child support for any child that comes about as a result of the crime. Up to now, a person convicted of rape would have no parental rights in the state, but would also not have to pay support. If the bill is enacted into law, the wrongdoer will be ousted of rights but still have the responsibility of support.
The contrast comes in the fact that it never occurs to the writer of the Pennsylvania article that a person who commits rape can be anything other than a man.
Under Pennsylvania law, if a woman has a child from rape, she can ask a judge to end the rapist father's parental rights such as custody or visitation.
But if she does so, under a loophole in the law, the woman would surrender her ability to collect child support from the father.
Almost every day we see older women in the news for sexually abusing underage boys, but somehow the fact never made it into the consciousness of the writer. No, for him, the Pennsylvania bill is about one thing only – protecting women from brutal men. But of course the legislation is written in scrupulously gender-neutral terms. And one of the criminal laws which, if violated, triggers the action of the bill, is statutory rape. So it’s plain that the legislature has in mind to restrict the parental rights of women who conceive via the rape of a child, as well as those of men who rape women.
And it’s equally plain that, any boy who decides to take up his parental rights may deny the mother the same while also receiving her child support.
But for the writer of the article, this law is a one-way street. Like New Zealand, Pennsylvania would give boys who father children with adult women real power over what their rights and obligations are. Unlike New Zealand, the news media have no grasp of just what the legislature is doing.
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