Utah – A recently passed bill in Utah will require biological fathers in the state to pay half of the out-of-pocket pregnancy costs. Republican Rep. Brady Brammer — who sponsored the bill — said he decided to sponsor the measure after growing frustrated with the number of anti-abortion measures going through the Legislature. While the bill is presented as an effort to decrease the burden of pregnancy on women, critics argue that the new legislation unique to the state won’t help women who are most vulnerable. Instead, they say it could make abusive situations even more dangerous for pregnant women.
According to CBS News, the bill was signed by Governor Spencer Cox after the proposal received widespread support in the GOP-controlled Legislature. The new law requires fathers to pay 50 percent of a mother’s insurance premiums while she is pregnant and pregnancy-related medical costs, including the hospital birth of the child, that are not paid by another person. “We want to help people and actually be pro-life in how we do it as opposed to anti-abortion,” said Brammer. “One of the ways to help with that was to help the burden of pregnancy be decreased.”
As per the legislation, if the paternity of the child is disputed, fathers won’t be required to pay until after paternity is established. The biological father would also not be financially responsible for the cost of abortion received without his consent unless it’s necessary to prevent the death of the mother or if the pregnancy was the result of rape. The bill has been lauded by anti-abortion activists who say it will protect the lives of unborn children by supporting women through their pregnancy. Merrilee Boyack — the chairman of the Abortion-Free Utah coalition — said she hopes this bill will decrease abortions in the state by decreasing the economic pressures on new moms.
“Anything we can do to support women in these circumstances will help them be able to give birth to their babies, feel good about that choice, and feel supported along the way,” said Boyack. On the other hand, Liesa Stockdale — director of the state’s Office of Recovery Services — pointed out that although Utah mothers already have the option to seek support related to birth expenses through the courts, few do so. According to NBC News, Stockdale said that while mothers will now have the option to also seek pregnancy-related payments through the legal system, it is yet to be determined how often they will pursue it.
“I don’t know how often it will be used,” said Stockdale. “That’s yet to be seen how often parents will choose to pursue these costs. But certainly, if they do, we’re here to collect.” Democratic lawmakers and women’s rights activists have also expressed concerns about whether the new legislation will actually meet women’s needs. Katrina Barker, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman, said there are better ways to help women, including expanding Medicaid, access to contraception, and providing paid parental leave. She added that she doesn’t believe the legislation will ultimately lead to fewer women having abortions as the costs of pregnancy are typically small compared with the costs of raising a child.
“In the grand scheme of things, having a child and raising them to adulthood is going to be a lot more money,” she said. Gabriella Archuleta, a public policy analyst with YWCA Utah, which provides services to domestic violence survivors, warned that stressors about financially supporting a baby could further increase cases of domestic abuse which already tends to escalate during pregnancy. She also noted that the new bill doesn’t equitably address the high cost of navigating the legal system. “On the surface of it, it sounds like a good idea,” Archuleta said. “But what we’re here to do is look at some of the nuances and how it impacts women, and I don’t think those nuances were really explored to the extent that they should have been.”