Amendment to parental rights bill causes concern

BISMARCK, N.D. - The North Dakota House will soon vote on a bill to allow a court to decide to strip the parental rights of a convicted rapist.

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It now includes an amendment preventing a victim who is married to a convicted rapist to petition to have their parental rights taken away.

Many are taking to social media to share their discontent with the amendment, saying rape is rape even if marriage is involved.

The House Judiciary chairman, Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, brought the amendment forward for discussion before its later passing.

Rep. Karla Rose Hanson, D-Fargo, said, "In its original form, this Senate bill is a very good bill."

A proposed amendment would not allow a judge to bar parental rights from a convicted rapist who is married to a victim and had a child as a result of the assault.

"I opposed the amendment inside of the hearing because I believe rape inside of a marriage should be treated the same as rape outside of marriage," said Hanson.

Koppleman says it's not an automatic reason to terminate parental rights.

"You'd be dealing with an intact family at that point. So I think what the committee was thinking was that the courts should not disrupt the family where two people for whatever reason have decided to remain married," said Koppelman.

The sponsor of the bill, Sen. JoNell Bakke, D-Grand Forks, says she disagrees with the amendment.

"It give the impression that rape within a marriage, isn't rape," Bakke said.

Bakke says it's a wrong message to send and says another reason she disagrees with the amendment is because it wouldn't allow for federal funding. She says the bill with its original language would allow federal violence against women funding.

Koppelman says the bill would allow federal funding through this program but was unsure if the amendment would block that.