Paternity Test

The New York Times recently reported that new developments in blood tests will allow the paternity of a child to be determined long before the child’s birth.  New blood tests could possibly determine the identity of the child’s father during the 8th or 9th week of pregnancy without the invasive procedure and risk of an amniocentesis.  Amniocentesis is a procedure in which amniotic fluid is removed from the uterus, carrying a risk of miscarriage or other complications.

Implications of Early Paternity Testing

Knowing who the father is sooner will certainly have implications.  It will allow a woman to terminate a pregnancy with an undesired man sooner than ever before, or continue the pregnancy if the father is someone she prefers.  Also, the early knowledge of paternity may cause the father to be more willing to provide emotional and financial support to the mother during pregnancy.  This increased financial and emotional support could lead to healthier mothers and babies.

One legal implication, The Times reports, is that if the tests gain legal acceptance it will allow women and states to pursue child support payments much earlier than they do presently.  This may also allow the couple to come to an agreed settlement on child support before the child is born, reducing stress on the mother and court proceedings after the child is born.

Accuracy, Methodology, and Cost of Early Paternity Test

The test could be difficult to administer, however, because the putative father needs to provide a blood sample in addition to the mother.  The tests determine the paternity of the child by analyzing fragments of DNA from the fetus that are present in the mother’s blood in tiny amounts.  None of these early tests that are being offered have received a certification for accuracy that would make them acceptable to a court.  The tests are being offered by a few companies and range in price from approximately $1,000 to $1,800.  A typical post-birth paternity test usually costs around $500.

Social Controversy Involved with Using Early Paternity Tests

If courts and other entities begin to use these paternity tests, they could cause quite a controversy.  Because the tests could lead to more abortions, there may be many religious and anti-abortion groups that will surely have concerns.  However, the tests could lead to more continued pregnancies if women find out the father is who they hoped.  For example, if a woman had been raped and she found out the rapist was not the father, she may very well decide against abortion.

Surely, blood test technology will progress so that these tests are a viable option for women who need them.  It remains to be seen, however, whether society will accept their use in official capacities.