OUR OPINION: State’s children tagged with many liabilities

By NEMS Daily Journal

The Mississippi House last week passed a bill that would require identifying by blood/DNA verification the identities of men who impregnate underage girls, with the goal of prosecuting them at least for statutory rape.
The bill, supported by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, is a reasonable and necessary step in nailing criminals and, arguably n the long term, being able to demand child support payments.
Our state has a disturbing list of demographic pathologies related to babies, child bearing and individual reproductive behavior that is costly, sometimes criminal and often predictive of poor outcomes for children as they grow, mature and enter adolescence and adulthood.
House Bill 151 would require physicians or midwives to collect umbilical cord blood when a baby is born to a mother who’s younger than 16 and the mother doesn’t reveal the father’s name.
House Judiciary B Committee Chairman Andy Gipson said week a DNA test, using the cord blood, could determine who the father is. He says if the father is an adult, authorities could pursue statutory rape charges. Adult men impregnating underage girls is a far too common behavior, and any measure that could discourage it and lead to prosecution for rape serves a good purpose.
Other facts about children, parenthood and the status of children in Mississippi suggests pour state has deep-seated, widespread problems related to behaviors that are widely tolerated and, even worse, largely ignored:
(From Kids Count studies)
• 45 percent of children in Mississippi are in single-parent households, the highest in the nation; 7 percent are in father-only households, and 38 percent are in mother-only households.
• Mississippi is the 3rd highest of 50 states for births to unmarried women; 48.3 percent of the births in Mississippi are out of wedlock.
• Mississippi has the highest rate of teen mothers (ages 15-19) in the country: 121 per 1,000
• In Mississippi, 9 percent of married-couple families with related children are below poverty compared to 46 percent of single-parent families with related children that are below poverty.
• 31 percent of children in Mississippi live in poverty (highest in the nation).
• Mississippi has the highest rate, 50 percent, of children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment.
• Mississippi, despite widespread misperception, has one of the lowest rates of female-headed families receiving governmental support in the nation (27 percent), only surpassed by Alabama, which has only 26 percent receiving governmental support.
• Mississippi has the highest rate of teen mothers (ages 15-19) in the country: 121 per 1,000
The House bill is just one step. Many others pathologies, as noted, need to be addressed in some way.