Michigan Senate Bill 858 seeks to prevent perpetrators of sexual assaults from being able to establish paternity over a child born from their crime. Senator Rick Jones is quoted as saying, “My bill is trying to protect women from this sort of thing.” According to the State News’ Alex Kurrie, the process behind Senate Bill 858 looks like this:
While Senate Bill 858 certainly stands upon a just premise, the process behind the Bill seems difficult in practice and it ignores important facts involved in sexual assaults. For example, the mother bring an action under the Bill must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the child in question was conceived as a result of a sexual assault. This is surprising because the Bill places the burden on the victim. This ignores both the obvious trauma experienced by a sexual assault victim and the fact that many sexual assaults go unreported for various reasons.
Also, the Bill allows a court to make a subsequent paternity determination, such as finding the child was born out of wedlock. It seems like this would create additional issues like how property is passed if the supposed father dies or what happens when the sexual assault is between married parties.
Finally, and importantly, the Bill is reactionary rather than proactive. The fact that most women do not report sexual assaults or that sexual assaults are still happening on a daily basis should be the focus of the law. If more attention was paid to preventing or stopping sexual assaults, bills such as this would be unnecessary. So, while Michigan Senate Bill 858 means well, it is focused on the result of the problem and not the cause.
Click the link to the Bill and let me know your thoughts.