A group of all male politicians have rejected a law that would prevent rapists from having parental rights to their victims' children.
Campaigners were left "angry and disappointed" after Maryland’s General Assembly voted against enacting the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act.
No women sat on the five-strong committee which voted against the bill, which means that rape victims who choose to bear the child will still have to negotiate with their attackers over custody rights or whether they put the child up for adoption.
It is the ninth time that politicians in the US state have voted against a proposed changes. So it remains one of just seven out of the 50 US states not have a similar law in place.
The latest version of a bill launched 10-years ago by Kathleen Dumais had the support of a wide spectrum of groups, from Planned Parenthood organisations to the Maryland Catholic Conference.
After it was voted down, her colleague Senator Cheryl Kagan told the Baltimore Sun: "Although I have great respect for my colleagues, not having women on the committee was tone-deaf."
Ms Kagan said looked over the men on the committee because "I wanted to watch as the conscience for women and rape survivors".
The decision was strongly criticised by women’s rights advocates.
"I think we're both angered and disappointed," Lisae Jordan, director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, told Broadly.
Ms Jordan added there weren’t a large number of cases of rape victims going on to have a child conceived in the assault. But she said that her group did come across women who were involved in legal disputes with their rapists because of inadequate legal support.
She continued: "It's traumatic for someone to have to parent with their rapist. It’s frightening.
US sexual assault statistics
“It's something that raises concerns about the effect not only on the rape survivor but also on the child."
However, Ms Jordan welcomed a new law introduced in Maryland this week, which stopped victims of sexual assault from having to prove they used physical force to resist a rape.
"Sexual assault survivors will no longer be forced to choose between keeping safe or having access to justice," Ms Jordan told Buzzfeed News.Reuse content