Melissa WolfHawk, who is expecting the birth of a son later this week, fears that the state will take her child away because her husband is a convicted sex offender.
WolfHawk's husband of three years, DaiShin WolfHawk, 53, admitted raping two teenage girls more than 20 years ago, and county officials have warned the couple they may take the child into custody. The move could be the first of its kind in the country.
Melissa WolfHawk is scheduled to appear in court today in Pennsylvania, and the results of the case could have nationwide consequences.
"If we create an environment in which someone convicted of a sexual offense effectively cannot live in society in a normal way, what we're doing is forcing them out," said Ernie Allen of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "We may even be increasing the likelihood of their re-offense."
County officials say there is much more to the case. They told the court they've heard reports the WolfHawks have a history of mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse. The county has also accused DaiShin WolfHawk of sexually abusing his three children. WolfHawk denies the allegations.
The American Civil Liberties Union is defending Melissa WolfHawk, 31, arguing that the county was too aggressive in monitoring her pregnancy. Melissa WolfHawk is also fighting to regain custody of her 21-month-old daughter who is now living with family in Maryland after a case that began with questions of DaiShin WolfHawk's fitness as a father.
WolfHawk won a restraining order on Sept. 30 keeping child-welfare workers from asking about her pregnancy, at least until today's hearing. She is still required to notify the Schuylkill County Department of Children and Youth Services within 24 hours of giving birth.
"I am living every woman's worst nightmare that when your child is born and you close your eyes for one second, if that baby isn't sleeping on your chest, you open your eyes and that child isn't going to be there," Melissa WolfHawk told The Associated Press.
DaiShin WolfHawk was known as John Joseph Lentini when he pleaded guilty to rape, attempted rape, sodomy and attempted sodomy in 1983, serving more than a decade in prison in New York.
DaiShin WolfHawk, who is unemployed, said he lives about 20 miles from the home Melissa shares with her father. He says he is the chief of the Unole E Quoni, an American Indian tribe, which he says has 175 families in eight states, but is not recognized by any state or the federal government.