Cousins Marriage

Researcher: cousins who marry face a slightly higher risk of babies' birth defects

The expression "kissing cousins" doesn't go far enough for Donald and Eleanore Andrews of Pennsylvania.

They are first cousins who fell in love, and got married last month. But, their wedding had to be held in Maryland -- one of 26 states that does allow first cousins to marry. There is a move under way to get the remaining states to overturn their laws banning close relatives from marrying because of genetic concerns.

A University of Washington expert says the risk for birth defects among first and second cousins who've married is lower than originally thought. Robin Bennett says parents who are unrelated face a three-to-four percent risk of a baby with birth defects or other severe problems. That risk increases a bit for couples who are close cousins.