William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


Melanie Dostis


Among the fundamental rights recognized in the Constitution are the rights of parents to raise their children. While never interpreted as an absolute legal privilege, courts have exercised wide discretion in preserving this right and historically ignored the reality that not all parents are deserving of this right. Even though the family law system has protections in place to terminate parental rights for atrocities like abuse, it largely neglects an uncomfortable area of parental origin: parental rights regarding children conceived by rape. This is not only to the detriment of children, but, as this Note argues, at the peril of some mothers.

This Note will argue that the renewed attempts to restrict abortion access—amidst the ongoing reliance on targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP) laws—is an impetus for all states to finally adopt a clear and convincing standard in stripping the parental rights of a parent who conceives a child through sexual assault, regardless of a conviction.