Last week's controversy surrounding Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and his comments on "legitimate rape" caused a firestorm in the U.S. political scene, but one lawyer chose to light a related issue often ignored – the legal struggles of raped women who decide to keep their babies.
Akin suggested last Sunday that women's bodies could prevent pregnancies in cases of "legitimate rape," a statement for which he later apologized, but not before a large section of the GOP, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, asked him to step down from his campaign for the Missouri Senate race.
The remark stemmed from a debate on abortion, which Akin and many Republicans want to make illegal in most cases, including those of rape. In response to Akin's statement, a woman who was raped and decided to give birth to her baby, and now works as a lawyer, revealed that rapists in 31 states retain the same custody and visitation rights over the children they conceive through rape as do regular fathers.
"Eight years after my rape, I find myself on trial against ignorance again. Rep. Todd Akin's recent comments that 'legitimate rape' rarely results in pregnancy not only flout scientific fact but, for me, cut deeper. Akin has de-legitimized my rape," said Shauna R. Prewitt a lawyer in Chicago in a piece for CNN.
"You see, nine months after my rape, I gave birth to a beautiful little girl. You could say she was conceived in rape; she was. But she is also so much more than her beginnings. I blissfully believed that after I finally had decided to give birth to and to raise my daughter, life would be all roses and endless days at the playground. I was wrong again," she added.
Prewitt revealed that what she discovered was that the majority of U.S. states, 31 in total, have no laws that prohibit a rapist from exercising custodial rights. A woman is forced to risk her own legal rights to have the rapist brought to trial in exchange for the man dropping his interests in interacting with the child.
She further dismissed the belief that no rapist would dare ask for parental rights for a child he fathered, citing her own experience and detailing the legal battles she had to go through.