By Pat Warren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Maryland women may now petition to terminate the parental rights of rapists, a law signed Tuesday that many see as long overdue.

Legal recourse for rape victims to prevent their attackers from exercising paternal rights for children conceived in sexual assault has been hung up in the General Assembly for years.

The bill signing represents a decade of hard work, which the governor acknowledged today.

“I know this is a long time coming for a lot of the advocates, people who have worked on this issue for up to 10 years,” Gov. Larry Hogan said before signing the bill.

The bill got top priority this session and was signed today as emergency legislation, making it effective immediately.

Maryland was one of just six states with no law on the books to terminate the rights of men who father children by rape.

Women may pursue parental termination with or without criminal charges of rape. But Senate President Mike Miller says in his view, even this bill is open to question.

“If you propagate a child, guess what, you should be responsible for the support of that child. One of the concessions that the Senate had to make in order to allow this bill to get passed was to relieve this rapist of parental responsibility for supporting the child,” he said.

That’s an issue that is likely to be addressed in the future.

But for now, the the bill passed unanimously in the House and Senate and signed into law. Advocates are taking a victory lap.

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