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Barker responds to Turner's DNA Bill

Hon Rick Barker
Minister for Courts

20 March 2008
Media Statement

Barker responds to Turner's DNA Bill

The government will give careful consideration to the content of Judy Turner's Family Proceedings (Paternity Orders and Parentage Tests) Amendment Bill, Courts Minister, Rick Barker said today.

"I have made it very clear that the issue is an important one. However it is my view that the member’s Bill takes a very narrow view on the matter, and does not deal with the wider, more complex and subtle issues," Mr Barker said.

"Determining genetic parentage is a sensitive issue, the outcome of which can have profound impacts on children and their families. Therefore issues regarding who should have access to the information, and the purpose the information can be put to, need to be carefully considered and worked through before embarking on a course which could have unintended consequences.

"In addition, Judy Turner's Bill would allow the Court to compel a child to be tested. The issue of mandatory samples for paternity testing could involve the use of force where a child for whatever reason does not wish to give a sample. This needs to be carefully considered.

"Common law does not necessarily permit the sample or blood tissue to be taken from a person without his or her consent. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act protects people's rights and liberty. These are rights that children have as well as adults.

"There are also issues to be considered around situations where an informal adoption has occurred and the child has grown up believing they have a genetic link to their parents and may not wish to know otherwise. Another example of how this Bill could be problematic is in situations where couples have asked a friend or donor to carry or father their child. Should a dispute occur at a latter date, determining parentage for the purposes of financial responsibility, based solely on the issue of genetics, ignores the moral and ethical dimension of the circumstances.

"The Government has signalled a willingness to look at the complex issues raised by this Bill. The Ministry of Justice is already looking at legal parenthood issues following the Law Commission's Legal Parenthood report.

"Legislation about paternity testing needs to find the appropriate balance between the interests of the mother, father, and child. I am scheduled to receive further advice on the Bill in the next few weeks," Mr Barker said.


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