April 6, 2021 -- Under a new law in Utah, biological fathers are now required to pay at least 50% of the out-of-pocket medical costs related to a woman’s pregnancy, including prenatal care.
The chief sponsor of the “Shared Medical Costs” bill and the state Planned Parenthood chapter say Utah appears to be the first state to mandate prenatal child support, The Associated Press reported. But a few other states have laws that can result in fathers being financially responsible for pre-birth expenses, the AP said.
The new law “requires a biological father to pay 50% 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.” Gov. Spencer Cox signed the bill into law last month.
A biological father will not have to pay anything if the mother has an abortion without his consent, unless the abortion is medically necessary to keep the mother alive or if the pregnancy was the result of incest or rape. If a man disputes paternity, he would not pay anything until paternity is established.
The bill’s chief sponsor, Republican state Rep. Brady Brammer, told The Associated Press the bill was not intended to lower the number of abortions, but he said that could be a result. He said he was frustrated with the number of anti-abortion bills and wanted to do something to make it easier to bring babies 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.”
Anti-abortion groups praised the bill.
“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 Merrilee Boyack, chairman of the Abortion-Free Utah coalition.
Katrina Barker, a spokesperson for the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, said she doubts the law will cut the number of abortions because the cost of an abortion is small, compared to the overall costs of raising a child. She said expanding Medicaid, access to contraception, and providing paid parental leave would help women more.
“In the grand scheme of things, having a child and raising them to adulthood is going to be a lot more money,” she told the AP.
Planned Parenthood said an abortion can cost about $1,000 if a woman doesn’t have insurance. In 2015, it cost $233,610 to raise a child, not counting the costs of college, the AP said, citing U.S. Department of Agriculture figures.
A potential downside to the new law is that it could create more stress during a pregnancy, leading to more domestic abuse, said Gabriella Archuleta with YWCA Utah, which provides domestic abuse counseling.
“On the surface of it, it sounds like a good idea,” she told the AP. “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.”
Liesa Stockdale of the Utah Office of Recovery Services, which is involved in collecting child support, said mothers have been able to seek financial support for birth expenses through the courts, but few of them have done that.