Would Mandatory Paternity Tests Protect Children?
Joe Chisholm has been looking for his daughter for 18 years. Last week, his search finally came to an end when Patricia O’Byrne, the girl’s mother, was arrested and charged with abducting the girl. An arrest warrant was issued for O’Byrne in 1993 and she evaded police for 18 years, having managed to secure new identities for herself and her daughter. Both the mother and daughter had government issued identification in their new names, such as birth certificates and passports, which is raising questions about them being too easy to obtain.
Renewed call for mandatory paternity tests
In light of the O’Byrne case, the Canadian Children’s Rights Council is renewing its call for mandatory paternity tests. They argue that this would ensure both parents are identified immediately, which would help eliminate paternal fraud and identity fraud. Currently, about five percent of birth registrations in Ontario do not have a father listed on the birth certificate. Even when one is listed, the Canadian Children’s Rights Council argues the information isn’t always truthful.
In a segment on the CBC in 2009, Grant Wilson from the Canadian Children’s Rights Council shared his thoughts on the issue. “When a woman has a baby, she knows for sure if she is the mother or not,” Grant argued. The father, however, doesn’t know whether he is the father unless he goes behind the mother’s back to get a paternity test done. Grant positions this as a violation of the rights of both the father and the child.
The Canadian Children’s Rights Council appears to be heavily on the side of men under the guise of the rights of the child. They cite surveys on women’s infidelity and lies from other countries to create a burning platform for their cause. For example, they cite a survey in Scotland where 50% of women said they would lie if they became pregnant by a man other than their partner if they wanted to stay with that partner. They cite another study from the BBC that indicates that one in 24 fathers is not the biological father.
Would mandatory paternity tests unfairly punish women?
Grant argues that under the current system, women know for sure if they are the mother or not, but men don’t. This puts women at an advantage and men at a disadvantage.
If mandatory paternity tests are implemented, the tables will be turned. Women, who get pregnant while having an affair will be “punished” for doing so in all cases. Men, however, who get a woman pregnant while having an affair will only be “punished” for doing so if there is a way to track them down and test them in order to obtain a match. It all sounds way too much like a horrible daytime talk show scenario, complete with screaming and yelling and plenty of drama.
Research on infidelity shows that both men and women are having more affairs than they used to. However, in virtually all surveys on the topic, men are more likely to have extramarital affairs than women are. Mandatory paternity testing would likely result in more women being left to raise a baby on their own, something that is all too prevalent already without paternity testing.
If Grant’s proposal was going to be implemented, perhaps it should come with the option of in utero testing (which can now be done via non-invasive procedure at 12 weeks), so that the woman would still have time to consider her options or make arrangements if she is in fact going to be left alone to raise a baby.
How do we define family?
The paternity issue often comes up in cases where a man discovers that he is not in fact the biological father of the child and wishes to stop paying child support. In Canada, the courts look at both DNA and relationship. In other words, both the biological father and the person acting as the father could be ordered to pay child support payments.
But those cases, and all the assumptions behind Grant’s proposal, assume a situation where a heterosexual couple are in a committed relationship and have decided to bring a child into the world together. In fact, there are numerous scenarios where this may not be the case and where mandatory paternity testing would be inappropriate or undesirable.
- There are women who are not in a committed relationship, but who want to have a child and may have had male friends assist them in doing so under the condition that they would not be required to “father” the child.
- There are lesbian couples who use sperm from several different donors during the same cycle so that they do not need to know who the biological father is.
- Gay men may combine their sperm when using a surrogate, so that they do not know which one is the biological father.
- Some women get pregnant from rape or an abusive relationship and may choose to keep the baby even though they don’t want anything to do with the man who provided the sperm.
- In cases of adoption, an amended birth certificate is issued with the adoptive parents names on it, effectively making biology irrelevant in terms of responsibility for that child.
And, of course, as I write this the lyrics of Heart’s All I want to do is make love to you are ringing out in my head:
we made love
Love like strangers
All night long
We made love
Then it happened one day
we came round the same way
You can imagine his surprise when he saw his own eyes
I said ‘please
I’m in love with another man
And what he couldn’t give me
was the one little thing you can’
All I wanna do is make love to you
One night of love was all we knew
All I want to do is make love to you
say you will
you want me too
A complex issue
Ultimately, there are so many different scenarios where it may not make sense to force a paternity test and the consequences of forcing the issue could be much greater than the protection the Canadian Children’s Rights Council purports it would provide to the child.
What do you think? Should paternity testing be mandatory?
Image credit: storyvillegirl on flickr