Utah dads will be legally required to pay half of a woman’s pregnancy expenses under a recent state law. The bill’s sponsor has described it as an attempt to reduce the pressure of pregnancy on women while growing responsibility for men who have children. However, some opposers say that the current law would not protect the most vulnerable women and could make violent conditions much more unsafe for pregnant women.
The bill’s sponsor, Utah’s Planned Parenthood society, says that Utah is the first state to enable maternal childcare. A few states, including Wisconsin and New York, have legislation that could cause fathers being financially responsible for pregnancy expenses. Gov. Spencer Cox recently signed the bill, which was strongly endorsed in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Republican Rep. Brady Brammer said he supported the bill because he was fed up with the amount of anti-abortion initiatives that were working their way through the Legislature and wanted to implement laws that would make it possible to carry 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 way to help with that was to help the burden of pregnancy be decreased.”
According to Brammer, the bill will apply to a pregnant woman’s health insurance premiums and all pregnancy-related medical expenses. If the child’s paternity is questioned, fathers will not be obligated to pay until paternity is confirmed. The parent would therefore not be financially responsible for the cost of an abortion performed without his permission unless it was required to save the mother’s life or whether the birth resulted from rape.
Anti-abortion activists, on the other hand, have supported the measure, arguing that it would protect the lives of unborn kids by assisting women during their pregnancy. Merrilee Boyack, chairperson of the Abortion-Free Utah coalition, expressed optimism that the bill would reduce abortions in the state by easing financial burdens on new mothers.
“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,” Boyack said.
Other women’s rights activists have debated whether the new legislation requiring fathers to help pay expenses would really address the demands of women.
Planned Parenthood spokesperson Katrina Barker said she supports offering more financial help to mothers, but that there are better options to help women, such as extending Medicaid, providing access to contraception, and providing paid parental leave.
Barker has stated that she does not think this law would cause fewer women getting abortions because the costs of pregnancy are usually insignificant as compared to the costs of raising a kid.
“In the grand scheme of things, having a child and raising them to adulthood is going to be a lot more money,” Barker said.
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According to Gabriella Archuleta, a public policy consultant with the YWCA Utah, domestic violence remains high during pregnancy, and seeking these costs can add to the pressure of financially raising a child. According to data from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, about 324,000 pregnant women are abused each year in the United States.
“On the surface of it, it sounds like a good idea,” Archuleta said. “But what we’re here to do is look at some nuances and how it affects women, and I don’t think those nuances were really explored to the extent that they should have been.”
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