Utah may be the first state to enact a specific law requiring biological fathers to pay half of a mother’s pregnancy-related medical costs. The law will take effect on May 5.
The legislation has been met with somewhat mixed reactions. Supporters believe the law will encourage men to take responsibility in pregnancies and lessen the financial burden on women, but opponents worry the law is misdirected.
State Representative Brady Brammer, the bill’s chief sponsor, told the Utah House Judiciary Committee that he sees the law as pro-life, not anti-abortion. He believes “oftentimes there’s this battle between pro-life and pro-choice, where some of the pro-life positions really turn into a perception that it’s just anti-abortion.” The possible effect of the law on abortion access has been debated.
The new law does amend a portion of the Utah Child Support Act to stipulate that a biological father would only be responsible for payment after paternity is established in cases where such paternity is disputed. A biological father will not be responsible for the cost of an abortion unless it was necessary to prevent the mother’s death, or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.
Critics have also suggested the law places the burden on mothers to pursue money from fathers through legal processes that are not always easily accessible and sometimes expensive. Instead, they suggest, the focus should be on improving Medicaid, insurance coverage, equitable access to reproductive health care, and paid family leave.
Gabriella Archuleta, a public policy analyst with YWCA Utah, which provides services for people experiencing domestic violence, believes the law may exacerbate domestic violence stressors. She suggests that seeking pregnancy-related costs from a woman’s abusive partner could worsen stressors and put them in further danger of domestic abuse.
Many states already provide avenues for mothers to pursue pregnancy costs from fathers, but this appears to be the first stand-alone bill.
Utah Law Requires Biological Fathers To Pay Half Of Pregnancy-Related Medical Costs, NPR (April 7, 2021)
Utah Will Require Fathers to Help With Pregnancy Bills, The New York Times (April 6, 2021)
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