A new law in Utah will require biological fathers to pay half of the medical costs of mothers’ pregnancy and birth, sparking debate over abortion and the state’s maternal health policies.
The law, which Gov. Spencer J. Cox signed on March 16, amends Utah’s child support law by requiring that any father whose paternity has been established to pay half of the child’s insurance premiums. the mother while pregnant, and all related medical costs, including the birth.
Some critics of the law have said it does not directly support pregnant women and have expressed fears it could link women to violent partners.
Bill HB113 was sponsored by State Representative Brady Brammer and State Senator Daniel McCay, both Republicans, who argued that it would increase men’s liability in pregnancies for which their paternity has been confirmed. When lawmakers passed the measure in January, Mr Brammer said it was supposed to be seen as a type of “pro-life” measure, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
In a telephone interview, Mr Brammer said he had partly sponsored the bill to find a way to deal with some of the “very contentious” abortion bills that have been passed by the Assembly. legislative and have been challenged in the courts.
“I wanted to try to do something that can improve the situation, which is to say that people are in a very difficult situation, making a really difficult decision,” he said.
“It wasn’t necessarily supposed to be about abortion,” he added. “It was the idea that abortion happens because people are in a really difficult situation.”
But the law has spurred debate in the state over abortion and domestic violence issues in Utah, where women considering abortion are required to receive counseling that includes information that could discourage them from having an abortion. , then wait 72 hours.
Most states, including Utah, follow the standard set by the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, who says abortion is legal until the fetus is viable, usually between 24 and 28 weeks. Utah has a so-called “induction ban” that says it would automatically be illegal to have an abortion in the state if the Roe decision was overturned.
A 2019 bill that would ban the procedure in most cases at 18 weeks or later has been blocked in Utah under an injunction because it is being challenged in court by Planned Parenthood.
Karrie Galloway, president of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, said pregnant women should be able to determine for themselves what is best for them.
“While we appreciate the fact that this bill highlights how expensive it is to be pregnant and that many women find it difficult to cover the costs of their health care, we believe there are better ways. to support pregnant women and their families, ”she said in a statement on Tuesday. .
“Expanding Medicaid, better insurance coverage, equitable access to reproductive health care and paid family leave are just a few ways for policymakers to do a lot more,” she said.
The law, which comes into effect on May 5, could make Utah the first state to have a stand-alone mandate for prenatal child support. According to Mr. Brammer, a few states, including Wisconsin and New York, have a legal pathway that can make fathers financially responsible for pregnancy costs.
Maryland’s Family Code states that a court can order a father to pay medical and hospital bills for pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery. In Mississippi, child support orders can include pregnancy and childbirth costs. In New Hampshire, a public welfare law states that a father is responsible for the “reasonable expenses” of the pregnancy.
State Representative Brian King, a Democrat representing District 28 of Salt Lake County, who dissented when the bill was passed earlier this year, said he was concerned that Bill No. ‘financially trains women with violent partners, The Tribune reported.
Mr Brammer said on Tuesday that women would be able to control whether they seek help with the father’s pregnancy. “It probably happens after the birth, as part of the child support claim if she wants to,” he said.