JACKSON, Miss. (WCBI) – Mississippi legislator’s passed a bill that requires authorities to collect umbilical cord blood and run DNA tests to determine paternity if a new mom under the age of 16 refuses to reveal the father’s identity.
The new law is intended to chip away at Mississippi’s teen pregnancy rate, which is one of the highest in that nation. In 2011, there were 50.2 lives births per 1,000 females between the ages of 15 and 19 in Mississippi. The nation’s average was only 31.3 for that age range.
Critics say the law invades the medical privacy of the mother, father, and baby. There’s also the question of how the paternity test will be paid for as they cost roughly $1,000.
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant says the DNA tests could lead to the prosecution of grown men who have sex with underage girls.
The director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi worries that underage girl will skip prenatal care in order to avoid revealing the father’s identity.
The law says health care workers would not face civil or criminal charges for collecting cord blood, but failure to do so could result in misdemeanor charges. The law does not address whether or not the mother can refuse blood collection or what would happen to her if she does.
The law took effect July 1 but has not yet been used. The state medical examiner is setting administrative rules for how the blood will be collected and stored.
The final version of the bill passed the Senate unanimously and the House 98 to 17. The issue of cost received little debate.
This is the first law of it’s kind in the United States.