A controversial new law in Mississippi mandates that medical professionals collect umbilical cord blood from teens who give birth prior to age 16 and refuse to name the father. State legislators aim to analyze the cord blood for DNA, as a means to prosecute men for statutory rape. The law is also intended to reduce Mississippi's high teen pregnancy rate, but critics of the policy say it invades the medical privacy of the mother, father and baby. Additionally, opponents predict that teen mothers may intentionally avoid prenatal care or choose to not deliver their baby in a hospital for fear of revealing the father's identity.
While the law took effect in July 2013, it has yet to be utilized. Mississippi Senator Sally Doty and State Representative Adrienne Wooten have opposing viewpoints on the new law and explain their stances.
“It’s a complete falsehood and misrepresentation being made to the taxpayers of the state of Mississippi. It is quite obvious that they’re attempting to enact a DNA database and to usurp the 4th amendment of the United States constitution,” Representative Wooten says. “It is a total invasion of privacy. The 4th amendment protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
“There have been some questions about running it against some sort of federal database. That is certainly not the case,” Senator Doty explains. “The guidelines surrounding any sort of federal database would prohibit that. This is specifically for use in one specific case, where a 15-year-old child is pregnant by a significantly older man. That adult has made the decision to have an improper relationship, and I think they should pay the price. Also, by the time a pregnant teenager gives birth — a 15-year-old or below, a 13-year-old — hopefully, our department of human services is already involved, law enforcement is already involved, because we have mandatory reporting requirements for sexual abuse in Mississippi,” she adds.
ER physician Dr. Travis Stork says, “We are going to need to come up with some universal ideas on how we’re going to use DNA [and] when we’re going to use it. And if you are ever going to be allowed, nationally, to take DNA from someone without them consenting, I think that is a big concern. You should, I think, have some element of consent.”