The Alaska House has cleared the way for mothers who bear offspring from rapes to terminate their attackers’ parental rights over those children.

State Sen. Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage) announced Saturday that both houses of the Legislature have unanimously passed Senate Bill 134, which allows a parent of a child conceived by rape to sever ties with the rapist, “if approved by the court and in the best interest of the child.” The Senate, however, must agree with the House's amended version before it can be sent to Gov. Bill Walker's desk for his signature. 

Some 45 states already have similar laws on their books, but according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network six states -- Alabama, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming -- still lack laws allowing the full termination of rapists' parental rights.

According to Gardner, the Legislature added similar language to state adoption law in 1987, but its placement led some groups and family law lawyers to believe it only pertained to adopted children.

"For a woman that is pregnant following a rape who is considering her options, it is very important for her to know she does not have to be locked in a lifetime relationship with the rapist if she chooses to keep the child," Gardner said in the statement. "Further unwanted interactions with the rapist can interfere with a survivor's ability to work through the trauma of sexual assault and raise a healthy child."

Staff at the Senate Democrats’ office Saturday said the bill was prompted by a statutory-rape case in which an 18-year-old conceived a child with a 13-year-old.

Another Gardner-sponsored bill – SB 208 – designating March Sobriety Awareness Month, is ready for Walker’s signature. There wasn’t any immediate word from his office Saturday afternoon on whether he would sign the measures.

Liz Raines contributed information to this story.

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