New Mississippi Law Requires Collection of Cord Blood For DNA Testing

Once again I offer apologies for unavoidable inattention.  I’ve been in transit again and now face a whole bunch of major family events.  All of this means I cannot keep up with comments and it’s hard enough to post.   It will be a while longer and then it should all settle down.

Still, this item caught my eye this AM and I wanted to say something about it.   I’m sure you can find other versions of it (as I did) but I like the AP one for its summary.

As reported in the papers, a new Mississippi law requires that anytime a girl younger than 16 gives birth and won’t name the father (the genetic father, they mean), the hospital must collect and retain cord blood for DNA testing.   (The Reuters version says the cord blood must also be collected if the identified father is over 21.  I have not read the legislation but I’ll assume that is correct.)

The articles go on to touch on some of the issues raised by the law:  Cost–who will pay $1000 per test?   Privacy–but it’s unclear whose.  (They couldn’t test the baby’s blood without permission, but the idea is that the cord is abandoned/discarded and so no one can claim privacy.)   And practicality (who will they be matching the DNA with?)

These are all good questions, but more interesting to me are the purposes advanced to justify the law.   One is to uncover cases of statutory rape and aid in the prosecution of those cases.

Here’s how that is supposed to work:  Broadly speaking, statutory rape is sex involving a person under the age of consent.   Here’s the Mississippi statute.   A key point is that it makes no difference if the sex is completely consensual–it’s still criminal.   (Statutory rape laws are really quite interesting in their own right.   That might be a topic for another day, though.)

Anytime a woman who is 16 or under gives birth you can pretty well guess she’s had sex with someone.  Depending on his age, the man she had sex with may have violated the law.  (The woman is not prosecuted because she is the victim.)  Getting the baby’s DNA, which in turn allows identification of the genetic father’s DNA gives you the identity of the potential criminal defendant–assuming for the moment you have some bank of DNA to match against.

Given all the practical concerns though (the cost, the lack of any DNA banks to match against), one has to wonder if this is what is really going on.   And this leads me ot he second purpose.

The AP says:

 Statistics put the state’s teen pregnancy rate among the highest in the country. In 2011 — the most recent year for which statistics are available — there were 50.2 live births in Mississippi per 1,000 females ages 15-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The nationwide rate was 31.3.

The idea, then, is that somehow this law will reduce the rate of teen pregnancy.   It’s supposed to do that by facilitating the prosecution of statutory rape–which takes us back to the above discussion.   Is this actually likely to work?   To be a crime in Mississippi, the man has to be 1) 17 or over and 2) at least three years older than the woman.    So if the girl is 16 the man must be 19 or more.   I wonder how many of the Mississippi’s teen pregnancies really are the result of statutory rape?   No doubt there are some, but most?

Perhaps this detail is also relevant:

[The governor’s] staff says the idea for the law came from public meetings conducted by the governor’s teen pregnancy prevention task force — a group that focuses mostly on promoting abstinence.

In other words, the people who think that collecting cord blood will reduce the rate of teen pregnancy are the same people who think not teaching sex-ed will keep teenagers from having sex.

Now we actually might know something about how well the abstinence only approach works at reducing teen pregnancy–see the above block quote about Mississippi having one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country?    Nevertheless, the Mississippi legislature appears to be willing to try yet another bright idea from these folks.

Just imagine for a moment you really cared deeply about reducing the rate of teen pregnancy.     Is collection and testing of cord blood how you’d choose to spend the state’s money?

One last note:  We’ve occasionally had conversations here about universal DNA testing and the like.  Not once has anyone suggested that an additional reason for doing this would be to reduce the teen pregnancy rate.   Which, to me, suggests your all a lot more sensible than these folks in Mississippi.


27 responses to “New Mississippi Law Requires Collection of Cord Blood For DNA Testing

  1. Perhaps it is to reduce teen births “in hospital” that may be paid for by the state…

    I wonder if the mother insisted on cord banking – would the law win over the parents right?

    It breaks my heart the unwillingness for some folk to use common sense (assuming they have common sense which is obviously a stretch). Not to many years ago they did a study on the results of different types of sex education including abstinence only – doing different paring of combinations 4 or 5 of them (?) – the one that provided the comprehensive sex ed combined with abstinence only education was the most successful at both preventing teen pregnancies, and later start for sexual activity – doubtful I can find the link now though. Abstinence only? Good luck with that being successful.

  2. Isn’t Mississippi the state that no longer has any abortion clinics? Usually these same people who advocate for total abstinence also want to block access to birth control pills and simple condoms. Even though my home state of Utah has the most ridiculous laws regarding putative father rights, at least women can still get access to abortions … until the next religislature opens again.
    I know that this is off the point but putative father laws are also relevant to the reproductive rights of women, even minor women. By the way, I was one of a few activists on the Utah Adoption Council who fought against that proposed revision in the Utah Adoption Code back in the early 1990s. As an insider to the process of how that happened, I can testify to the fact that the motivation was purely a religious point-of-view and driven by the LDS Church Department of Social Services whose desire was to ignore the rights of putative fathers in order that they could expedite as many adoptions as possible. They had several different regional departments represented while non-LDS agencies only had one each. The limited voices of one token adopted person, one token birth mother, and one token donor conceived person (me) on the council were ignored.

    • I think you are quite correct to draw attention to the bigger picture. What are the options for young women in Mississippi? I know the answer is supposed to be abstinence, but how likely is that really? (I’m inclined to invoke “human nature” here, and that’s what I plan to write about today once I finish looking at these comments and going to a meeting.)

  3. big brother clamps down further every day on women’s rights. good point about their not being any abortion clinics…. The key reducing teen pregnancy, in addition to abortion, is education and opportunities and goals for the future… Girls who have these are less likely to get pregnant.
    Not all teen pregnancies are oopses- some are desired and even planned…

  4. Rad now do it for ever person born and use it to confirm the identity of the people claiming to be the parents before certigying the virth record. Leave the line blank until the right person can be identified. I’m moving to mississippi. They don’t understand what to do with the information they are collecting, they need me. I’ll explain everything on the way to the lab.

    • Yeah, this seems a lot more radical than it is. I’m sure there will be lots of people who complain about how terrible that would be, to actually verify that the father and mother are correctly identified, and not just let them put down whoever they want and lie to everyone. It might result in some marriages breaking up, maybe even some violence, but there is no way to stop people from finding out in the future that the baby isn’t really theirs with a DNA test, so why not just make them mandatory and automatic in the hospital right away? There will need to be federal rules about what to do with the data to keep it safe and secure, you wouldn’t some hospital screw up or corrupt lab worker to switch the cord blood vials or the records in the computer so you couldn’t even prove you still are who you were when you were born.

      • I know many people already know this, but just for those who might be relatively new here: The names on a birth certificate do not (and never have purported to be) the genetic parents of the child. The LEGAL parents of the child are listed. This is why new birth certificates are issued on adoption.

        Now one can certainly advocate changing how birth certificates are used. That’s totally legitimate, perhaps even sensible. But given how they are used, the idea that you want to list “the right person” doesn’t mean what many think it means. DNA testing cannot tell you the correct name to list on a birth certificate (as they are currently used.) It may turn out that DNA is important, but really it is a question of law not science. Not saying anything about how it SHOULD be, I just want to make sure people understand how it actually work for now.

        • Wait, you say the names on a birth certificate have never even been PURPORTED to be the genetic parents of a child? Of course they are purported to be the genetic parents of the child, that’s whole point of changing the birth certificate when a baby is adopted – to “purport” to be the genetic parents. In a few states they’d even change the hospital location to the city where the new parents live, obviously “purporting” it to be the city where the child was actually born. Originally in closed adoptions, the child was not to be told they were adopted, it was a lie that we felt government should almost force the adoptive parents to be complicit in, in order to help the children develop normally. Even if kids were told they were adopted, part of the deal was closed adoptions would shield the identity of the real parents.

          I thought it was clear I was saying that we should start using DNA testing to verify the name of the mother and father listed on the birth certificate, and if we can’t match it to people who claim to the mother and father, or to any other likely people who we think might be the father, leave the field blank: Unknown. We’d have to change how birth certificates were used by replacing them with legal guardian certificates, but we really should do that anyway even if we don’t start mandatory DNA testing to confirm parentage, because that birth data should be private and it isn’t necessary to lie about being a genetic parent to claim legitimate parenting authoriity anymore.

          • Perhaps we disagree about what “purports” means? Does it matter? If you mean that the idea was that adoptive parents could pass as genetic parents, perhaps there is some truth to it–to avoid the stigma of adoption. But in many instances everyone knows the adoptive parents are just that–cross-racial adoptions, say. And the new birth certificate is issued because we use birth certificates to identify the legal parents. If you switch to a system of legal parent certificates for one purpose and genetic lineage certificates for another then you could certainly do as you propose.

        • I know many people already know this, but just for those who might be relatively new here: The names on a birth certificate do (and have always purported to be) the genetic parents of the child. The BIOLOGICAL parents of the child are listed on an original birth certificate at the direction of the Federal Government for the purpose vital record keeping. The CDC uses the the information collected from original birth records as the basis for statistical information related to public health and welfare issues. These statistics are of course used for medical research in the area of hereditary disease and birth defects. This is why the new birth certificates are issued on adoption are not collected by the CDC as they don’t contain the names of the child’s actual parents nor do they contain information that is vital to the public’s health or welfare. The fact that original birth records supposedly contain the names of biological parents is further evidenced by the courts allowing men named as fathers based on presumption of patet y to rebut the presumption with evidence that they are not biologically related to the child named on the certificate. I
          Original birth certificates contain errors all the time naming non biological parents due to marital presumption laws. Other evidence would be citizenship of people born abroad being dependent upon a biological relationship and paternity suits turning on whether or not the relationship is biological.

          Now one can certainly advocate changing how birth certificates are used. That’s totally legitimate, perhaps even sensible. But given how they are used, the idea that you want to list “the right person” does mean what the CDC thinks it means. DNA testing cannot tell you the correct name to list on a birth certificate (as they are currently used.) It may turn out that DNA is important, but really it is a question of law recording identities with scientific accuracy. I’m saying that is how it is suppose to be and it is a travesty of justice when people lie and put their names as parents on birth records of people that are not their own offspring. I just want to make sure people understand how it actually works and where the breaches in accuracy are that prevents the truth from being recorded for now.

      • This is where I get so fond of you John you make good sense when you don’t make me dizzy with the marriage stuff.

  5. I have to wonder what they are planning to do with the cord blood. If no one has a clue who the father is, do they just save it forever?

    • Dan in Tennessee

      Exactly. Perfect example of a bad rule, envoked which runs counter to human nature, and they haven’t thought about the next step: Who’s going to store and maintain this blood bank? (which won’t even deter teenage pregnancy).

    • Gosh I hope so that way they can run the dna against major dna data banks and triangulate the identity of the father even based on the dna of other people who’ve joined websites like FTDNA. That is how I find parents sometimes. By finding a cousin and working backwards. This is a super important issue – a persons parent is missing. The parent that is suppose to be taking care of them. People with offspring don’t have a right to privacy they have to identify themselves and the UPA says that they are suppose to test relatives if they cannot find the guy to test him so this is one way to test massive databases of people who might be the child’s relatives. I hope it works. Who is going to store it? Gee I don’t know State’s could take bids from cryobanks for managing the cordblood of every person born until their parents were positively identified. It is no different than retaining a foot print or a finger print or getting the social security number of the people who claim to be parents. It’s not like people have a right to hide from their offspring anyway or from the state when they have offspring. No if you did not know you had offspring and you had never been in trouble you would not have your dna in a database but if we start doing it for every child born then there will be a database by the time they are old enough to have children and then no person will ever wind up not knowing who their parents are and we could correct that masive public health crisis we have now from recording the wrong people as parents on vital records.

      • correction, how I hope to find parents some day

      • I think many people find the idea of national DNA data banks rather frightening. (Some of these comments came up on the issue of the putative father registries.) It’s not that they wouldn’t be useful for a range of purposes, though.

        • what more does the government want? they’ve got access to all our facebook accounts and they want DNA too???

          • When you open a bank account they get your finger prints. Heck correction when you are BORN they get your finger and foot prints DUH I forgot about that. Your whole hand as a matter of fact. Suppose to be so uniquely identifying that no two people except identical twins/trips etc. have the same prints – just like DNA right? If you cash a check at a bank you don’t bank with they take your finger print. Everyone is assigned a unique Social Security Number that stays with them for life (except adopted people and that is a huge mess). DNA is used when paternity or maternity is in question in order to establish facts and people don’t have the right to refuse, if they do they’ll just require a relative to test instead. DNA is used to identify the guilty party in crimes. Why not simply make sure before the baby goes home with the wrong people? Why not prevent the baby from establishing a bond with the wrong people so they can’t claim to be “the only parents the child has ever known” down the line when the child is older? Why not prevent paternity fraud and maternity fraud up front to prevent all the law suits and keep responsibility squarely in the laps of those responsible for creating the child? Why is that so invasive? We don’t entirely trust that the spouse is the other parent or we would not allow him to rebut the presumption based on what? DNA evidence or proof he was out of town when she got pregnant etc. Why is it any more threatening than the other forms of identification? Like facial recognition that’s a goody. Or ‘real id’? You know they can point a scanner at you from 50 feet away and know everything about you from the info incrypted in your Drivers license and bank cards? They don’t have to save your DNA just record the number. Think of all the missing person’s cases they could solve if everyone’s dna was recorded at birth. Nobody would be able to abandon their children. Nobody would remain a Jane Doe in a morgue.
            Frankly its much less invasive than say GPS on your phone and in your car, fast track on your car and in your bus pass. At least this would help people not get separated from their families and if they did it would help them find their way home. It’s identification, not

        • Can we talk about privacy or perceived privacy for a moment? It is not that DNA makes a person a parent it just identifies the person responsible for having created the child who is responsible for the child’s existence. Whether they intended for that child to exist or not is irrelevant.
          Let’s be real clear here, statutory rape is a crime. If we know that a girl has been raped and we bring her to the hospital they do a rape kit to collect DNA and run that DNA against a data base of criminals DNA to catch the rapist. If that rape kit is not done immediately following the rape and the girl gets pregnant and delivers a child there is another opportunity to identify the man who committed the crime by collecting dna from their child.
          We really don’t have any grand right not to be identified as being responsible for our own actions. We don’t have any right to be held responsible for the actions of others either.

          The federal government says states have to look for fathers and do dna tests on men they think might be fathers and if they refuse to test they are suppose to test immediate relatives to determine if they are fathers.

          • Statutory rape is a very specific crime with its own rationale and history. It is consensual sex involving a person under a specified age–here 17.
            The key word there is “consensual.” This distinguishes it from other rape charges, in which part of the charge is that the victim did not consent.

            Historically (hundreds of years back, where the crime was first defined) only a woman could be the victim of statutory rape, and only a man could be convicted, and it in many ways was understood as a form of theft—the young woman’s chastity was stolen–and not stolen from her, but from her father–who controlled her marriage prospects. She was ruined. (By contrast, young men who engaged in sex were not ruined and so young men could freely engage in sex, as long as they did so with older women.)

            Most states have kept statutory rape laws but have updated them. Typically, they’ve made them gender neutral and they’ve restricted them to situations where there is a meaningful age difference. They are generally justified as serving two purposes. One is to protect the young from the old. This concern is about power and really about the nature of consent, I think.

            The second justification is the prevention of teen pregnancy concern that is articulated in Mississippi. That’s rather different, if you think about it. It has nothing to do with age differences and it really means that, once again, the laws are focused on preventing young women (as opposed to young men) from engaging in sex.

            One of the things about statutory rape is that since it is generally consensual sex no one reports it and ends up at the hospital. Rape kits aren’t generally done. Pregnancy is evidence that the crime occurred months ago.

            And one last note: It’s much easier to convict someone of statutory rape than of rape because in the latter case the prosecution must prove lack of consent. In statutory rape all you have to do is show that people had sex. This means prosecutors may charge statutory rape in cases where really they ought to charge forcible rape because it is easier to prove. that’s a problem and it is important, of course, but I don’t think it really pertains to the Mississippi issue.

            • Marriage is proof of consent to have sex and conceive offspring, and unmarried sex is inherently non-consensual because without the public binding marriage, the parties can’t be fully informed about each other’s future commitment. Statutory rape is also non-consensual because a minor cannot give official consent, just like they cannot marry for the same reason.

            • Wow that is really interesting. It’s easier to prove but you really need a reason don’t you or you can just be an angry wife or parent?

            • so my point is not wrong really. It’s a crime (regardless of history) but you have to prove they had sex and you can’t really do that unless the girl wants to spill the beans on the guy or unless she delivers his child. But if she delivers his child and does not want to spill the beans the only way to prove that her child is his child would be DNA. I’d imagine that since he is a suspect in a crime they are not worried about his privacy. Also the state does have the right to test men suspected of being a child’s father for child support purposes.

              I have read a bunch of stuff Julie and I have never read where it states expressly that a mother holds exclusive right to prevent the child from being dna tested for the purpose of identifying the father. An action for maternity or paternity can be brought by anyone at anytime – least it says so in my state. So the mother could not just flat out refuse to get her child tested if she was subpoenaed especially not if she was not receiving support from another man pretending to be the father or who really was the father. The court would let them put it to bed right let the test be done to prove once and for all whether a child was someone elses? Its the risk of the guy making the claim he’d have to pay for everything anyway. So can a mother really refuse? Can you point me to where it says she can? Cause all things supposedly being equal someone who thinks the kid is his can at least raise his hand and get the test done right? Whether he wins custody or visitation or whatever is a sad other state of affairs but I’m pretty sure she can’t just unilaterally make that decision out in the open. She can lie and conceal and probably get away with it but if confronted with an actual situation where the law wants to know or the dad wants to prove it she’s stuck right?

              • If a possible father requests a test or if the mother is on government assistance she can’t decline the test. If no one comes forward saying “I might be the father” and she’s not on government assistance, I’m not aware of any laws for DNA testing.

                • Right, there are circumstances where DNA testing of her child can be done even against her express wishes because she would be interfering with the right to information by her child or the government or of the man who may potentially be the father. It is a false sense of power that women have if they think they have the power to simply not ‘give their child’ their father. On some level she needs the cooperation of the father even if that cooperation is something involves his utter laziness, or in some cases laziness plus a sperm donation contract.

  6. I just need to say for the record I can hear Paul McCartney playing live out my front window….OMG

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