Ark. bill would strip rapists of parental rights

An Arkansas lawmaker wants to strip convicted rapists of their parental rights.{}

The bill, filed last week, would prevent rapists from seeking custody or visitation rights to a child of rape.

It was introduced by Rep. John Edwards late last week and since then it's received national attention and praise from people around the country. But one Little Rock lawyer says the bill is too vague and could have major consequences.

"If there's ever a moral absolute on this earth, it's that rape is always wrong," said Rep. John Charles Edwards.

It's a belief about rape that most people share. So stripping a rapist of all his parental rights seems to be a no -brainer. However, 31 states including Arkansas do not prohibit a rapist from seeking custody or visitation.

"I decided that Arkansas needed to be off that list and we needed to have uh some protection in place to enable a woman to have the freedom to make the best decision that she could make for her," said Edwards.

But Family Law Attorney Bonnie Robertson says the bill leaves no room for error.

"I don't see in the bill any kid of safeguards for the instances where someone is wrongly accused and wrongly convicted so I'm a little bit concerned about how automatic and how simple the bill is," Bonnie Robertson, of the Robertson Law Firm in Little Rock.

Robertson says although she strongly believes no rapist deserves parental rights, one wrongful conviction is one too many.

"It also provides a way for a woman to wrongfully accuse someone of rape for the purpose of thwarting the relationship between the man and the baby," said Robertson.

Edwards says the bill was submitted early in order to make some adjustments but he says whatever the final draft is the message will remain the same.

"A woman in that circumstance had herself violated. She shouldn't have to continually put up with that is she chose and made the decision to carry that child," said Robertson.