Mississippi will require physicians and midwives to collect the umbilical cords of some young mothers under a new law intended to lower teenage pregnancy rates, which are the highest in the nation.

The statute takes effect July 1 and targets birthing mothers who were age 16 or younger at the time of conception. It requires health care providers to retrieve umbilical cords in cases in which the father is over age 21 or paternity is in doubt. Samples would be held in the state medical examiner's office for testing should authorities investigate statutory rape, but would not be automatically tested and entered into a DNA database.

While supporters say the new law would help to prevent older men from fathering children with young teenage girls, opponents say the law violates privacy and wouldn't help anyway.

"We think it's a very invasive law to a woman who is already in a vulnerable situation," Carol Penick, executive director of the Women's Fund of Mississippi, told reporters

The state leads the nation in teenage pregnancies with 55 out of 1,000 live births coming from mothers between the ages of 15 and 19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Across the country, New Hampshire reports the lowest rate at 15.7 live births per 1,000, compared to a national average of 34.2.

Gov. Phil Bryant, a republican, signed the bill. "As governor, I am serious about confronting and reducing teen pregnancy in Mississippi. Unfortunately, part of this epidemic is driven by sexual offenders who prey on young girls. This measure provides law enforcement with another tool to help identify these men and bring them to justice."

Rep. Andy Gipson, a republican of Braxton, says the state will fund the cost of the requirement, though an estimage of those costs has not yet been provided. Bryant, who also works as a pastor, led the move for a 2012 law requiring physicians to preserve fetal tissue from abortions involving girls under age 14 in the event rape or statutory rape was suspected.

The umbilical cord law tests new legal territory and may be challenged in the courts, Matt Steffey, a constitutional law professor at Mississippi College School of Law, told reporters.

"The argument is that the DNA is abandoned or about to be abandoned as medical waste, and a person doesn't have constitutional privacy over trash," he said. "But I think people are understandably nervous about the government collecting and permanently storing information from their DNA."

The state law would also compel health care providers to provide an adjunct role in law enforcment, which might test also the ethical boundaries of the profession, some say. "Physicians would rather the Board of Medical Licensure supervise and regulate the practice of medicine instead of having government intrusion between doctors and patients," Thomas E. Joiner, immediate past president of the Mississippi State Medical Association said.

Other critics of the new law say it might be more effective to change sex education curriculum in the state, which presently focuses on abstinence-only and "abstinence-plus," which stresses abstinence but provides more practical information about contraceptives.