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Cord Blood Law Seeks to ID Statutory Rapists

By Betty Wang, JD on June 05, 2013 10:11 AM

Cord blood DNA testing will soon be required by law in some cases in Mississippi. Beginning July 1, doctors and midwives in the state will need to collect umbilical cord blood samples from the babies born to some girls who are under 16.

This controversial campaign, the first of its kind, is aimed at discouraging older men from engaging in sex with young girls. It seeks to identify suspected statutory rapists through the use of a DNA database.

Statutory Rape in Mississippi

Statutory rape laws vary by state. In general, though, they refer to having sex (consensual or not) with someone under the age of consent. The age of consent is often where the laws will vary within each respective state. For example, Mississippi's age of consent is 16 and applies to couples who are more than three years apart in age.

What this means is that if a 15-year-old consents to sex with a 19-year-old man, he can still be held liable for statutory rape because she isn't of the age of consent. A problem that often occurs when these underaged girls are impregnated is their hesitance to admit who the father is; in some cases, they don't recall.

Legal Concerns

Because the bill is so novel, it is riddled with legal controversies. One of them, according to a law professor, in an interview with NPR, is the lack of warrant or consent, as dictated by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

A warrant would also need to list probable cause, meaning there must be a justifiably objective suspicion that the girl is the victim of statutory rape. Therefore, doctors and midwives, who would be "deputized" by the law to collect cord blood samples for testing without a warrant, could potentially face problems if they are attempting to extract evidence without the girl's consent or any actual suspicion.

You can read the Mississippi cord blood-testing statute in its entirety at the Mississippi legislature's website.

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