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Bill Would Help Women Avoid Custody Battles With Alleged Rapists

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Women who have babies that are the result of rape would have an easier time keeping the alleged rapist out of the child's life under a measure making its way through the Illinois General Assembly.

WBBM Newsradio's Bernie Tafoya reports, under current state law, a woman who is raped and becomes pregnant can seek to have visitation and custody rights restricted for her rapist. But state Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) said "it's only permitted if she has a criminal rape conviction against the attacker."

Williams has sponsored legislation to require only "clear and convincing evidence" of a rape, not a conviction, to limit a father's visitation or custody rights if a child is conceived through sexual abuse or assault.

Bill Would Limit Child Custody Battles In Rape Cases

"It is shocking to contemplate, and hard to believe, but in some cases these women actually find themselves fighting their rapist for custody of the child conceived as a result of the attack," Williams said.

When a woman chooses to have a baby resulting from rape, it can result in protracted a legal battle with the alleged rapist.

"In some of the cases that I'm familiar with, the attempt to get custody or petition for visitation is used more as a bargaining chip in rape cases," Williams said. "The perpetrator may attempt to get the woman to drop the rape charges, or not pursue the charges, in exchange for not pursuing custody."

"Our bill would right this wrong, and this inequity," Williams added.

She said more women become pregnant from rape than some people might think.

"There are estimates that between 25,000 and 32,000 rape-related pregnancies occur every year," she said.

The measure was approved by a 111-0 vote in the Illinois House, and has been sent to the Illinois Senate for debate.

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