A new Mississippi law will require doctors to collect umbilical cord blood from young mothers who might have been the victims of statutory rape. The law, which goes into effect July 1, is entering unchartered legal territory as many doctors and citizens are concerned about privacy rights of DNA.
As noted by Huffington Post, the main purpose of the law is to curb teenage pregnancy. The blood collected from the umbilical cords will be entered into the state medical examiner’s records to be used to persecute statutory rapists.
The law will only affect mothers who became pregnant when they were younger than 16 years old and the father is either in question over 21. In these cases, doctors and midwives will be mandated to collect the cord blood and hand it over to authorities to prove the paternity of the baby in order to charge the father for wrongdoing.
Supporters of the law argue it will deter older men from having sex with younger girls, but critics cannot see how this controversial law will have much effect on the rate of teenage pregnancy.
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Mississippi has one of the nation’s highest rates for teenage births, as 55 out of 1,000 babies are born to mothers between the ages of 15 and 19. The national average is around 34.2 births per 1,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) is a strong supporter of the bill along with other state Republicans.
"As governor, I am serious about confronting and reducing teen pregnancy in Mississippi," Bryant said. "Unfortunately, part of this epidemic is driven by sexual offenders who prey on young girls. This measure provides law enforcement with another tool to help identify these men and bring them to justice."
For now, the law is relying on the fact that the mothers do not have constitutional privacy over the DNA, which is usually intended to become medical waste and the trash is not constitutionally protected.
One of the more intriguing aspects of this law is its widespread Republican support. Many Republicans, as it is well known, are against stem cell research despite the fact that stem cells — though admittedly different than cord blood — are also destined to become medical waste and so would fall under this law as well.