As of the 12th of January, Alabama State Rep. Kenneth Paschal (R-Pelham) has pre-filed a bill which he claims will secure parental rights as “fundamental.” Parental rights are currently considered “ordinary rights” in the state of Alabama. If this bill is passed and parental rights are deemed “fundamental rights”, the state government would need to prove that there is a “compelling reason” before overriding a parents’ rights. In short “ordinary rights” allow parental decisions to be overridden by Alabama’s government more easily than “fundamental rights”, which require the demonstration of a “compelling reason”.
Representative Paschal explains that this bill is simply preserving and furthering the rights already afforded to parents. This can be incredibly important as, according to the Parental Rights Foundation, the system to investigate, protect against, and prevent child abuse can result in significant trauma during the process. They claim that in as many as 83% of investigations, it is ultimately concluded that there was no abuse or neglect occurring. However, children are often removed from their homes and placed with family members, foster homes, or group homes during the course of the investigation, which can cause a great deal of trauma and hardship to parents and children alike.
Paschal believes this bill will allow parents to “rest easy knowing that they won’t wake up one morning to find that the government is trying to erode their decision-making power in raising their children.” He is calling for the Alabama state legislature to enact this bill and protect parental rights by statute.
Currently, under Alabama law, a court can terminate parental rights if the parent refuses or is not capable to meet the needs and requirements associated with being a parent. This can be due to a parent’s conduct or condition if they are deemed unfit to care for their child in the present or foreseeable future. This includes cases involving abuse, neglect, abandonment, mental illness, substance abuse, and more. This bill would make it harder to revoke such parental rights and would give the government a higher threshold to meet to prove a parent is unfit to care for their child.
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