SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Biological fathers in Utah will be legally required to pay half of a woman’s out-of-pocket pregnancy costs under a new law unique to the state that critics say doesn’t do enough to adequately address maternal healthcare needs.
The bill’s sponsor has presented the measure as an effort to decrease the burden of pregnancy on women and increase responsibility for men who have children. But some critics argue the new legislation won’t help women who are most vulnerable and could make abusive situations even more dangerous for pregnant women.
Utah appears to be the first state to mandate prenatal child support, according to the state’s Planned Parenthood association and the bill’s sponsor. But a few states, including Wisconsin and New York, have provisions that can result in fathers being financially responsible for pre-birth expenses.
Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, recently signed the proposal, which received widespread support in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Republican Rep. Brady Brammer said he decided to sponsor the measure because he had grown frustrated with the number of anti-abortion measures going through the Legislature and wanted to pursue legislation that would make it easier to bring life into the world.
“We want to help people and actually be pro-life in how we do it as opposed to anti-abortion,” Brammer said. “One of the ways to help with that was to help the burden of pregnancy be decreased.”
The bill would apply to a pregnant woman’s health insurance premiums and any pregnancy-related medical costs, Brammer said.
If the paternity of the child is disputed, fathers won’t be required to pay until after paternity is established. The father also wouldn’t be financially responsible for the cost of an 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.
In Utah, mothers already have the option to seek support related to birth expenses through the courts but few do, said Liesa Stockdale, director of the state’s Office of Recovery Services, which typically collects child support. She said mothers will now have the option to also seek pregnancy-related payments through the legal system, but it’s unclear how often they will pursue it.
“I don’t know how often it will be used,” Stockdale said. “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.”
The bill is not intended to lower …read more