Position: SUPPORT WITH AMENDMENTS
The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of Senate Bill 574 in its original form. The Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.
The original language of SB 574 creates a civil judicial procedure to extinguish paternity rights when a child was conceived of a first or second-degree rape or incest.
The introduced version of the bill is designed to protect women from being tormented by their rapists when they become pregnant from the rape. Currently, a rapist can assert custody and visitation rights over a child who was conceived during the rape. While the Church strongly supports keeping families together, it also recognizes that doing so may not be in the best interests of the child; particularly when the child may have contact with a parent who exhibits violent behavior. The introduced bill would also support the decision of a pregnant woman who is the victim of rape to carry her child to term without having to fear the future interference of her attacker. The Maryland Catholic Conference supports measures that seek to protect vulnerable mothers and children from harm and promote their general well-being.
It is for these reasons that the Maryland Catholic Conference respectfully urges a favorable report for the unamended version of SB 574. Thank you for your consideration.