Mother on quest to change perception of children conceived during rape

April 30, 2014
Shauna Prewitt

Shauna Prewitt

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief. 

PERE MARQUETTE TWP. — Shauna Prewitt was a 21-year-old University of Chicago student in February 2004. She had dreams and hopes. Then 7 minutes changed her life forever. She was raped. A month later she discovered she was pregnant. Health officials and counselors immediately encouraged her to abort the child.

But, the choice wasn’t so clear for Prewitt.

“I didn’t feel like an abortion was going to work for me,” she said during her keynote speech at the Mason County Right to Life dinner Tuesday night at Cornerstone Baptist Church. “Somethign else was going on in my mind and changing after this experience.”

Prewitt said she had to have a sonogram and had the opportunity to hear her daughter’s heartbeat for the first time. She decided to keep the child.

Her decision was not only unpopular with doctors, nurses and counselors but also among friends and fellow church goers. However, she stood her ground and in October 2004 gave birth.

“She was amazing,” she said. “I remember when she was born I looked at her and I would figure this all out. I made that promise to her.”

That was the good news.

“At the same time I was promising my daughter I would always take care of her, my attacker had hired a very smart attorney. You see, I reported my attack. That attorney advised my attacker maybe he should apply and seek full custody of my daughter. And, he did. I wasn’t real scared but I just thought it was a dirty move. I never thought no where on earth, especially in America, could a rapist exercise parental rights.”

However, the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the same amendment that gives people the right to an abortion, gives people the right to parenting. Because Prewitt had claimed the child was conceived through rape, the law in Illinois favored the rights of the rapist over the rights of the raped. There were few legal protections that existed to protect the woman who becomes a mother after rape.

The father’s attorney made Prewitt an offer. He would terminate his parental rights if Prewitt agreed to drop the criminal sexual assault charges against him.

“I agreed. I wasn’t happy about it.”

Two years later, the decision still haunted Prewitt. She made a decision to go to law school and figure out a way that other women would not be put into the same position. After writing a paper on the topic in 2010, she received national attention from judges, lawyers, bar associations and legislatures.

That paper has influenced the change in several states’ laws, including a bill that is currently in the Michigan House of Representatives, co-sponsored by Rep. Ray Franz of Onekama.

The Chicago resident said her purpose of speaking though was not to tell her story but to change the way people see children conceived from rape as the exception to anti-abortion legislation.

“I need you to help me change the way we talk about these children,” she said.





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