House OK's bill restricting rapists' custodial rights

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A bill restricting the parental or custodial rights of a convicted rapist unanimously passed the Utah House of Representatives Monday.

Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, sponsored HB152 after learning about the case of Shauna Prewitt, a Missouri resident who was allegedly raped in 2004, gave birth to a daughter and was then served with papers by the accused rapist seeking custody of the girl.

Hall discovered there was no law on the books to prevent that same situation from happening in Utah.

"A rapist may be able to convince a judge it's in the best interest of the child. He may say 'I'm reformed and found God and I am a better man now.' And the judge may believe him," Hall said. "The state should in no way force the victim to stay in a relationship with a rapist to raise a child."

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, said she was startled it wasn't already law in Utah and praised the proposal.

The bill allows a convicted rapist to have parental rights if the rape victim consents to it and a court determines it's in the best interest of the child or the two parents live together and establish a relationship to raise the child.

A convicted rapist, however, would remain on the hook for paying child support.

The measure passed 74-0 and now moves to the Senate.

Twitter: @davemontero