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Bill to let women end parental rights of rapists fails in General Assembly

A long-sought bill to allow women who conceive a child as a result of being raped to end the parental rights of their attacker failed to pass the General Assembly after emotional negotiations that ran into the final hour of this year's session.

A negotiating committee of state senators and delegates worked from hand marked copies of the different versions of the bill in the Senate's lounge. All that remained was to finalize technical details in the legislation, but the discussions ran past 11 p.m.

Del. Kathleen Dumais, who has worked on the issue for a decade, appeared close to tears as she walked out of the meeting believing a deal couldn't be reached. But Dumais was not a formal member of the negotiating group, which carried on for a few more minutes and appeared to strike a bargain.

"We're good," said Republican Sen. Michael Hough.

The bill still needed a vote in both chambers, and legislators dispatched aides to draw up the necessary paperwork. But as the final minutes of the session passed, the bill did not come up.

Sen. Bobby Zirkin, chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee and one of the negotiators, said the print shop in the State House literally couldn't print the bill fast enough to get it to the House and Senate floor.

"This is going to be top two or three disappointments of this session," the Baltimore County Democrat said. It was the second year in a row that the bill had failed on the final day of the session and Zirkin said he would revive the measure in 2018.

The episode marked a bitter end for sexual assault victim advocates, who otherwise had an unusually successful session. They secured rewrites of several parts of Maryland's sexual assault laws that they say will make it easier for victims to secure justice and earlier on Monday won passage of a bill providing significant additional funding to support victims.

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