January 31, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
What’s been for many years a quiet change in family laws may be about to become one in the U.K. as well (The Star, 1/30/19). It seems one Member of Parliament, Louise Haigh of Sheffield, intends to put forward a bill terminating the parental rights of men who rape women who then become pregnant. Similar bills have been considered – and several have passed – by state legislatures here in the U.S.
But, as Haigh and her supporters will likely discover, what seems to be an open-and-shut case for reform is a bit more complicated than they might think.
At first sight, there’s not a lot about such bills to disagree with. After all, if a man forces himself on a woman, why should he be rewarded with a child and rights to that child? Feminists who put forward these bills invariably ask why such a woman should be required to have an 18-year relationship regarding the child with the man who raped her. It’s a good selling point.
One problem though arises when we remember that these bills come against a backdrop of those same feminists’ incessant efforts to expand the definition of ‘rape.’ They promote the bills with the assumption that what the man did was forcible rape, while, out of the other side of their mouths, trying to change the definition of rape to virtually anything undesired by the woman. They’ve had considerable success on U.S. college campuses doing exactly that.
And if they’re successful with the current pitch, will it be long before they’re arguing that other forms of sex should also terminate a man’s parental rights? Drunken sex? Sex under false pretenses? My guess is that those and other efforts will follow hard on the heels of the current one.
Now, what the article doesn’t mention is quite an important issue – fathers’ obligations. Haigh’s bill would terminate a rapist father’s parental rights, but usually termination of rights means terminations of responsibilities. Does Haigh argue for separating the two so that obligations to the child remain but rights die? If so, it’ll be a landmark in family law and not a good one. If not, do women embrace the idea that their right to child support would automatically end with a finding of wrongdoing by Dad?
But far more important is how Haigh’s bill is worded. Specifically, is it gender-neutral or does it specify male-only perpetration? That too is a pretty big question mark. Would a 30-year-old female teacher who has sex with her 14-year-old male student and becomes pregnant automatically lose her parental rights to the child? If not, why not?
The entire concept behind the prohibition against adults having sex with minors is that, until some specified age, a minor is incapable of consenting to sex. The absence of consent of course makes sex rape. So when women rape boys, would they lose their parental rights under Haigh’s bill?
The article addresses none of these points. So I emailed Haigh with those questions. I await her answers and will duly report on same when and if I receive them.
NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission. All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.