The legislature passed and Governor Kay Ivey signed into law a bill known as “Jessi’s Law.” The bill sets clear parameters for judges to use when awarding custody or putting a child into the foster system with the purpose of increasing the presence of both natural parents in a child’s life.
Sponsors included Senator Clyde Chambless and Representative Will Dismukes.
The law has garnered national attention including a Washington Post Article by Emily Wax-Thibodeaux titled, “In Alabama – where lawmakers banned abortion for rape victims – rapists’ rights are protected.” The story was then republished on AL.Com. AL.com’s J.D. Crowe also drew an editorial cartoon with the same premise.
One of the bill sponsors has since spoken out about the news saying:
“Alabama’s law is crystal clear — rapists do not have parental rights. Jessi’s Law very clearly provides that the parental rights of a person convicted of rape or incest in the first degree will be terminated. Plain and simple. Even prior to this bill’s passage, the law in Alabama gave judges the authority to deny parental rights for those who commit such heinous acts, to ensure that children are being raised in the healthiest and safest possible households.
It is shameful that the Washington Post would publish such a gross mischaracterization of Alabamians while sowing fear in the minds of mothers, fathers, and children for the sole purpose of generating clicks online.
I filed Jessi’s Law three weeks before the session started in March, and the Legislature approved the measure on May 28. The Post printed its shoddy reporting on June 9, twelve days after Jessi’s Law was given final approval. The Post, and media outlets like AL.com that printed its misleading, sensationalistic story, should issue a retraction.
The Post story’s headline was: ‘In Alabama — where lawmakers banned abortion for rape victims — rapists’ parental rights are protected.’
That headline and the story that followed were deeply misleading, and the definition of fake news. This was lazy reporting that got the facts wrong, all in a rush to paint Alabama in a negative light.”
Alabama Today has reached out to Dismukes via a text message to follow up on the fact that the language included in the bill notes that “convicted rapists” lose their parental rights placing what victims advocates are calling a undue burden on the victim of rape. We will update this story if we get additional information to clarify.
Ned Holstein, board chair for the National Parents Organization, told the Washington Post that his concern is the potential for a “ruthless parent” fabricating a rape accusation.
As for if a rapist should get custody or visitation he went on to say, “Even if a person is convicted of rape, ‘there is merit on both sides of this issue, and we have no position on it, either way.”