Teen Moms can be Forced to Provide Cord Blood Sample in Mississippi
In Mississippi, teenaged mothers under the 16-years-old can now be forced to provide a cord blood sample if the identity of the baby's father is questionable. This law, which is most likely the first of its kind in this nation, requires state officials to run DNA tests on these samples to identify the child's father after the mother decides to forgo that piece of information. This law was not designed to join parents together for the benefit of the child, but rather, it was created to ensure that the teenage mother did not suffer from rape and were too afraid to speak up.
The Mississippi law sets out to protect young girls from predators. In a lot of rape cases, girls are scared into silence, and thus, even after a newborn enters the world, these girls will continue to live life with their mouths shut. This law aims to find out whom the father is to see if there might have been any signs of abuse, which could result in pressing statutory rape charges. Proponents of the law believe that it could be a key step in stalling the teen pregnancy rate. Mississippi has one of the highest percentages of teen moms within the U.S., a number that the state has failed to get down. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from the most recent set of data in 2011, there were 50.2 live births for every 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19. This number is a lot greater than the nationwide rate of 31.3 live births per 1,000 girls in the same age range.
"It is to stop children from being raped," Republican Gov. Phil Bryant stated according to ABC News. Bryant used to be a deputy sheriff in the 1970s before entering politics. "One of the things that go on in this state that's always haunted me when I was a law-enforcement officer is seeing the 14- and 15-year-old girl that is raped by the neighbor next door and down the street." The law was created from ideas that were expressed at the governor's teen pregnancy prevention task force that involves public opinion.
Critics of this law believe that it is an invasion of privacy. Not only will the DNA test force new mothers to reveal something that is personal, it will surely affect the entire family. On top of that, the existence of this law could prompt future girls who get pregnant to turn to drastic measures. The legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, Bear Atwood stated that girls might choose to have their children outside of hospitals and in unsanitary places that would place the newborn and mother at great risk of health complications. Aside from the concerns of privacy, these critics have also questioned where the funding would come from. A DNA test could cost hundreds of dollars, and for a pretty poor state, that amount of money might not be as easily accessible as one would believe.
According to the new law, cord blood samples will now be collected immediately after birth. The guidelines and process of taking the blood are now being written by the state medical examiner.