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Birth should be a time of joy, but for some women it is not so simple. For these women, childbirth also can mean a child custody battle with the person who allegedly raped them. Some Illinois lawmakers recently proposed a measure that would help these women.

Currently under Illinois law, a woman who is raped and ultimately gets pregnant can attempt to have the alleged rapist’s visitation and custody rights limited, so long as that rapist is criminally convicted of the rape.

But proponents of the measure think this is not enough, because current law only applies to rapists convicted of the crime. They find it shocking that a woman might have to win a custody battle against the person who raped them. The measure would no longer require a conviction. Instead, clear and convincing evidence of a rape would be enough to restrict a father’s visitation or custody rights for pregnancies conceived via sexual abuse or assault.

Worse, in some of those cases, the rapist is simply using a visitation and custody battle as a bargaining chip in their rape cases. They agree to not press forward for visitation and custody rights if the woman drops the rape charges. That can lead to lengthy and stressful litigation if the woman does not cave to the rapist’s demands.

Proponents also highlighted that this is a bigger problem than people realize. In fact, statistics indicate that at least 25,000 rape-related pregnancies happen per year.

The measure passed the Illinois House 111-0. Next up is the Illinois Senate, which will debate the measure soon.

If passed, the law may help women who are in the unfortunate position of conceiving a child through rape and then later blackmailed into not pressing charges or dropping already-filed charges to avoid having to share custody of the child with the man who raped her.

Source: CBS Local, “Bill Would Help Women Avoid Custody Battles with Alleged Rapists,” April 11, 2013