Dangerous New Legislation for Single Moms and Legal System Introduced by IL Legislators
You may not have heard yet, but last week two state Republicans introduced House Bill 6064, which has the following synopsis (we’ll summarize more below):
“Amends the Vital Records Act. Removes a provision concerning use of the biological father’s name on the birth certificate if not married to the biological mother. Provides that if the unmarried mother cannot or refuses to name the child’s father, either a father must be conclusively established by DNA evidence or, within 30 days after birth, another family member who will financially provide for the child must be named, in court, on the birth certificate. Provides that absent DNA evidence or a family member’s name, a birth certificate will not be issued and the mother will be ineligible for financial aid from the State for support of the child. Provides an exception for artificially inseminated mothers. Amends the Illinois Public Aid Code. Provides that a family that does not comply with the Vital Records Act provision concerning birth certificates of unmarried mothers shall be ineligible for aid for support of the child. Effective immediately.”
Please digest that for a moment. Basically, if you’re a single mom who gives birth in the hospital, and you either don’t know or refuse to identify a father, then these legislators want to deny the issuance of a birth certificate and financial aid for the child. There are so many reasons why this proposed law is wrong, it’s hard to know where to start – but let’s try.
What if the mom was raped?
What if the mom is subject to domestic violence?
What if the mom is simply unsure of the father because she made a decision, perhaps one she regrets, at a party?
What if, beyond the control of the mother, there is simply confusion among two or more men regarding paternity, and no one refuses to come forward?
What if a DNA test simply cannot be achieved logistically within 30 days?
What if there’s an adoption plan being made — and under the Adoption Act, a mother has an unfettered right to refuse to identify the father– but this law forces the mother to identify someone? She could pick the wrong person, the adoption could be disrupted, and for the wrong reasons, and her rights would be violated.
OK, setting aside such scenarios, let’s move to the next step: if the father remains unidentified or unknown, then this law requires that another family member’s name be put on the birth certificate. So, in effect, we will see single mothers subject to the above unfortunate circumstances, or others, being forced to add, say, an aunt, a grandfather, a brother, or a sister on the child’s birth certificate – just to receive financial aid.
The legal effect of this law would be appalling. Are we then going to compel the aunt to provide child support, because she is now considered a legal co-parent on the birth certificate? Are children’s birth certificates going to be left incorrect, perhaps forever, with some random family member on it? In adoptions, are we going to be required to provide notice to family members named on the birth certificate in order for the adoption to proceed? Is the Department of Vital Records, and in turn the legal system, eventually going to be inundated with requests to revise birth certificates because they were all forced to be made out incorrectly at birth, so that the mother could obtain aid for her child?
The effort of the lawmakers is abundantly clear: they want a family member on the birth certificate so that the family member becomes responsible for support; and correspondingly, they want single mothers who fall into circumstances where they cannot or will not identify a father- arguably the classes of mothers most in need of aid — to otherwise be unable to receive aid. It’s a cost-saving measure for the state that puts the burden of that cost in all of the worst places: the mother and child, surrounding family, the legal system, and overworked departments in Springfield (Vital Records) already suffering from budget cuts.
This is not a good law. Especially if you might be a mother or person affected by it, consider letting your congressperson know. Meanwhile, we hope that this article highlights the situations of single mothers and the importance that can legally attach to birth certificates. They are not to be taken lightly.
Photo credit: http://sophie-sticatedmom.com/2015/11/19/single-mothers-who-want-to-get-married/