A new Mississippi law says that if a girl younger than 16 gives birth and will not admit who the father is, the blood from her umbilical cord will be collected so that DNA tests can be conducted in order to paternity information.
The state believes this law will help in prosecuting statutory rape cases. Mississippi has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the United States.
Critics of the painless procedure say that it is an invasion of privacy and — at about $1,000 per DNA test — an expensive one at that, The Big Story.
Gov. Phil Bryant said the point of the DNA tests is to aid in the prosecution of grown men who have sex with underage girls.
"It is to stop children from being raped," Bryant said. "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."
He added: "A lot of DAs and judges don't want to take these cases on. Oftentimes, the female doesn't want to press charges or the parents do not want to. So, we've just got to stop this."
The law went into effect on July 1, but it has not been put into use yet.
Bear Atwood, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, points out that the law might stop an underage girl who does not want to reveal the identity of her baby's father from getting prenatal care.
"Will she decide not to have the baby in a hospital where she can have a safe, happy, healthy delivery?" she said.
"Most often, it is not middle school boys that are getting the middle school girls pregnant," said Judge Janace Harvey Goree, who oversees child support cases in four counties in central Mississippi. "When you're seeking child support quite often in these situations, they don't identify the father and so quite often you don't know until way down the road that the person who is the father is a relative or the boyfriend ... of someone else in the household.”