PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION SUPPORTING HOUSE BILL 1984, PRINTER’S NO. 2789, AND ANY SIMILAR LEGISLATION ALLOWING VICTIMS OF RAPE AND INCEST TO PETITION THE COURT FOR TERMINATION OF THEIR ABUSERS’ PARENTAL RIGHTS

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association has a long history of supporting victims of sexual violence; and

WHEREAS, House Bill 1984, Printer’s No. 2789 (“HB 1984”), would amend the Pennsylvania Adoption Act to allow parents whose child was conceived as a result of rape or incest the opportunity to petition the court to terminate their abusers’ parental rights; and

WHEREAS, the Pennsylvania Adoption Act currently treats single parents differently than parents who have an available step-parent in the context of termination of parental rights; and

WHEREAS, in particular, the Pennsylvania Adoption Act currently requires an adoptive resource— in practice, a step parent— be available in order for a parent to petition to terminate the parental rights of the other parent, even where circumstances justify filing for termination of an abuser’s parental rights immediately; and

WHEREAS, parents who are survivors of rape and incest are vulnerable to further victimization by ongoing child support and child custody litigation demands instigated by the other parent whose parental rights have not yet been terminated; and

WHEREAS, the potential for ongoing family court litigation makes it difficult for the victim parent and child to keep their address confidential, maintain their safety, and heal from the trauma caused by the other parent; and

WHEREAS, HB1984 provides a victim parent of a child who was conceived as a result of rape or incest the opportunity to petition to terminate the parental rights of the other parent, without impinging on the other parent’s due process rights; and

WHEREAS, HB1984’s proposed language broadens who may access the court to request termination of parental rights, but does not change the burden of proof required to terminate parental rights and, as in any other case under the Pennsylvania Adoption Act, petitioners will need to prove the grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence at a trial;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association supports House Bill 1984, Printer’s No. 2789, or any similar legislation that would allow victims of rape or incest access to the court to request the termination of parental rights of their abuser.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Governors authorizes the Chancellor and/or the Chancellor’s designee(s) to communicate the Philadelphia Bar Association’s position supporting House Bill 1984 and any similar legislation to the Governor, the General Assembly, the legal community, and the public and take whatever action is necessary to effectuate this resolution.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATON
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: March 26, 2020