June 5, 2013 — A new Mississippi law (HB 151) will requires physicians and midwives to take umbilical cord blood samples from infants born to some young women under age 16 so that authorities can try to determine whether the pregnancy resulted from statutory rape, Mississippi Public Broadcasting/Kaiser Health News reports.
Under current state law, men can be charged with statutory rape for sex with a minor under age 16 if there is more than a three-year age difference between them. The new law -- which takes effect July 1 and is the first of its kind -- aims to help law enforcement match cord blood samples with the DNA of men in a state database.
The law also requires prosecutors to determine where in the state the infant was conceived before charges can be filed. However, the measure does not specify who would prosecute the men if they were found, what age-range would be targeted, or who would be required to pay for the testing process.
State Attorney General Jim Hood (D) said the measure aims to "deter men over the age of 21 from having sex, particularly with girls 16 years and younger, particularly if they know we are going to pursue them."
Response to Legislation
Mississippi's teen pregnancy rate is about 60% higher than the national average. However, few teen pregnancies involve young teens and much older men, according to Jamie Holcomb-Bardwell, director of programs for the Women's Fund of Mississippi.
"It is a lot easier for politicians to talk about protecting young women th[a]n it is for them to talk about adequate sex education, access to contraception, looking at multi-generational poverty, making sure we have an adequately funded education system," Holcomb-Bardwell said, adding, "All of these things have been shown to decrease the teen pregnancy rate."
Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has expressed support for the measure. Statutory rape "has been accepted over the years where people say the young girl agreed to it so we have to accept it. And that has got to stop," he said (Hess, Mississippi Public Broadcasting/Kaiser Health News, 6/3).