Delaware has become the first state in the nation to ban spanking, the New American reports.
Gov. Jack Markell signed Bill 234 into law on September 12. The bill was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Patricia Blevins, and redefines child abuse laws to include acts that cause pain.
The law also classifies child abuse as a separate crime, and imposes harsher penalties in child abuse cases. Prior to the new legislation, child abuse cases were prosecuted under the same statue that dealt with assault by abuse or neglect for adult victims.
Sen. Blevins said, “Assaults against children are different than assaults against adults. So, it is important to make this a standalone crime.”
Child abuse is broken down into three levels under the new law. First and second degree child abuse are considered felonies, and penalties increase if the victim is under the age of four and suffers from developmental or intellectual disabilities.
Parents who commit “physical injury” or “pain” to a child under 18 would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor, and face a year in prison. A parent charged with causing “pain” to a child under three would be guilty of a class G felony and face two years in prison.
Bill 234 also labels “unlawful termination of a pregnancy without the consent of the pregnant female” as a “serious physical injury.”
Studies have linked spanking to depression, anxiety, mania, and other mental disorders.
The bill has its share of critics, but Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, has insisted that spanking is not the target of the law. Biden said:
“This will not do anything to interfere with a parent’s right or ability to parent as they see fit, but it also makes it clear that if you abuse a child in any way, shape or form, we’re going to have a statute that we’re going to be able to use to protect kids.”
Biden said the bill would go a long way “to better protect the children of [Delaware.]”
What do you think of Delaware’s new law?