Criminal Justice

DNA of babies born to teens under 16 will be collected for paternity tests under new state law

A new Mississippi law requires the collection of umbilical cord blood when girls under age 16 give birth and won’t name the father.

The law requires DNA tests on the blood in an effort to identify the father and prosecute instances of statutory rape, the Associated Press reports. The law, intended to reduce the state’s high pregnancy rate, may be the first of its kind in the country, the story says.

The law took effect July 1, but it has yet to go into effect as the state medical examiner develops rules on collection and storage of the blood. It’s unclear who would pay for the DNA test, which costs about $1,000, and whether possible fathers can be required to submit DNA.

Gov. Phil Bryant said the purpose of the law “is to stop children from being raped,” according to the AP story. He recalled being troubled when he worked as a deputy sheriff and saw “the 14- and 15-year-old girl that is raped by the neighbor next door and down the street.”

Bear Atwood, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, told AP that it would be an invasion of privacy to collect the blood without consent.

But the bill’s chief sponsor, State Rep. Andy Gipson, told AP that Supreme Court precedent allows the collection of DNA on discarded objects in criminal cases. “We’re not taking blood from the baby,” Gipson said. “We’re not taking blood from the mother. We’re taking blood that is discarded … literally discarded.”

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