Bill: Mandatory Paternity Tests Before Birth Certificates Issued
State Rep. G.A. Hardaway, who is sponsoring the bill requiring paternity tests before birth certificates are issued
Form used to file a birth certificate with the state
State Rep. Sherry Jones
Rebecca Kopp with her son
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - State Rep. G. A. Hardaway is backing a bill requiring a paternity test performed on all babies before their fathers' names are listed on birth certificates.
"They'll bring tears to your eyes," said the Memphis Democrat.
Hardaway said personal pleas for help in his district prompted him to sponsor what could be called the "paternity proposal" in the Tennessee Legislature.
His proposal would affect single adults as well as married couples.
"Well, at some point society has to weigh the rights of the parents against the rights of the child," he said. "And I think this is one of the basic inherent rights that should go with the child."
Right now, it costs $7 to get a copy of a birth certificate. The proposed legislation would add $165 to the cost.
It's not just the price of paternity testing that upsets some people.
"I do not support a paternity bill," said state Rep. Sherry Jones, a Nashville Democrat. "I think it's a real affront to women to say that every baby born has to have a paternity test."
Rebecca Kopp agrees. She recently finished filling out the birth certificate paperwork for her three-month-old son.
"I think it's offensive because I am married," Kopp said. "Even for women who aren't married, if they want to get a birth certificate, I think that that should be their right. I don't think they should have to prove who the father is."
Hardaway contends it's every child's right to know their father. He said it's a struggle he sees everyday.
"Just because we have adults who want to live a lie, lie to each other, the child shouldn't suffer," he said. "The emotional trauma that children go thru when they finally realize that they've been living a lie, it's unforgivable."
The bill is in committee. Hardaway said he is working to change some of the language to help it survive.
Right now, if a woman has been married for 300 days before their baby was born, the husband's name automatically goes on the birth certificate. If a woman is not married and wants the father's name on the paperwork, she has to get a paternity test and have it notarized before the father's name is listed.