Tennessee to Require DNA for Birth Certificates
Under existing Tennessee law, when a baby is born to an unmarried woman, the hospital (or other institution) where it occurs is required to provide information on voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, including the legal ramifications of such an acknowledgment. For birth certificates in general, “Either parent of the child or any other knowledgeable informant shall attest to the accuracy of the personal data provided.” Under a bill sponsored in the Senate by Tate (SB3717) and in the House by Hardaway (HB2964), a genetic test will be required to confirm paternity in order for the father to be listed on the birth certificate, regardless of the relationship between the parents. So, happily married and faithful husbands and wives, you’re suspect until proven otherwise by a state-ordered DNA test, regardless of whether you ever have a legal need to confirm suspect paternity. Single mothers? Well, it’s just assumed that you’re liars and out to cheat some man at such a rate that state-mandated DNA testing is warranted. [How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?]
I understand that this legislation is likely proposed in order to prevent men who are not truly the biological father from being liable for child support. However, I don’t understand why paternity tests couldn’t be required at the time of a paternity or child support dispute, rather than requiring the test for everyone. Why can’t my husband freely and voluntarily assert paternity, and leave mandatory DNA testing for the situation in which it is necessary to have confirmed, accurate information for legal proceedings? Birth certificates can already be amended via a court order if the wrong biological father was previously listed. Seems like a child support dispute down the road is just the place to get that done.
I wonder what the laboratory burden of such a requirement will be – I’d hate to see evidence in rape or other criminal cases going unexamined because of forced DNA tests for every birth in the state. Meanwhile, the American Pregnancy Association says that “Paternity testing from an accredited laboratory typically costs between $400.00 and $2,000.00, depending on the area in which you live in and the type of paternity testing you choose.” The state plans on paying for tests for those who cannot pay in full or in part, meaning people it deems to be able to pay would be required to foot these costs. CDC data indicates that 84,345 live births occurred in the state in 2006; if you very conservatively estimated that just 10% of the families in those live births wouldn’t be able to pay, the $400 estimate would cost the state $3.4 million per year. Now, I know there are folks tasked with coming up with a more accurate fiscal estimate than my quick calculation, but it’s alarming, nonetheless. Aside from which, even if I personally was deemed able to pay, I’d resent the hell out of being forced to spend a couple of hundred dollars for a state-mandated DNA test so my husband could be on the certificate if neither of us felt the need to have such a test performed.
As a somewhat amusing but totally possible aside, what happens when a couple agrees to conceive via a sperm donor, and the man later uses the law to back out of this agreement because testing confirms he’s not the biological father? Oh, I forgot – we’re only addressing those rampant, dreadful lying women with this bill.