A Petition for the Admission of Non-Invasive Prenatal Paternity Testing in State Courts
"Let's admit to ourselves that there are a lot of men out there that need to stop acting like boys; who need to realize that responsibility does not end at conception; who need to know that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise a child."
- President Barack Obama, Father's Day, June 15, 2008
Today, the practice of responsible fatherhood is of critical importance – to our society, to the expectant mother, and most of all, to the unborn child about to enter the world. Children who grow up in fatherless homes have a much greater risk of major challenges in life than those who grow up with a father in the home. According to the US Census Bureau, this epidemic is rampant and currently affects 27 million children in the United States. 1 out of every 3 households in America exists without a father in the home. These children, who suffer the absence of a father, often have problems linked to higher rates of poverty, failure in school, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, violent crime and depression. These statistics should give anyone pause and give us all good reason to support legislation that puts an end to a contributing factor that leads directly to this epidemic - the refusal of courts to order and admit prenatal paternity testing.
For a mother facing a pregnancy during which the child’s father has left or otherwise failed to acknowledge a parental role, the process of fostering responsible fatherhood cannot begin until all parties determine and accept biological paternity. Sadly, current U.S. statutory and case law fails to protect a child from a father that consciously abandons it during the 9-month period of time between conception and birth. New York State Family Court Law §532, for example, states that a man’s “pregnancy-related obligations” materialize only AFTER a child’s birth. Until the pregnancy produces a child, ANY and ALL costs associated with the pregnancy are deemed the woman’s responsibility. This delay is also responsible for allowing a father the ability to evade his parental responsibilities entirely, leaving the mother alone to shoulder the emotional and financial burden of not only the pregnancy, but subsequent parenthood as well.
Since the 1970’s, it has been possible to genetically link a father and his baby through invasive prenatal testing that required obtaining amniotic fluid. These traditional methods – amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling – pose health risks to the child which courts have typically considered too high to warrant court order.
Now, a safe and non-invasive, prenatal paternity test has been developed in which the pregnant woman’s blood is used to gather a sample of fetal DNA. This new method has been reported by the New England Journal of Medicine, is widely available, and is a simple blood test between the man and woman. Given the greatly reduced health risks to the mother, father and unborn baby, and the potentially life-changing benefits of resolving paternity before the baby arrives, it makes sense for all U.S. family law courts to recognize the use of non-invasive prenatal paternity testing to legally identify the father during the pregnancy.
We, the undersigned, are asking our legislators to recognize non-invasive, prenatal fetal cell/DNA paternity testing and amend the current statutes in place in order to allow the courts to admit the results of such testing into evidence. The earlier that a paternity test can establish a child’s father, the earlier parents can implement a successful parenting plan. By allowing the establishment of paternity prior to a child’s birth, you will firmly set in place the obligations of shared parenthood in a safe, cost-effective and more timely manner, benefitting the best interests of children, families and our society.
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Please recognize non-invasive, prenatal fetal cell/DNA paternity testing and amend the current statutes in place in order to allow the courts to admit the results of such testing into evidence.