News & Opinion | April 6, 2021 6:30 am

New Law Will Require Utah Dads to Cover Half of Pregnancy Costs

Pre-natal child support may sound like a good idea, but critics have raised some concerns about the new law's safety and efficacy

close up of couple holding an image from an ultrasound
While fathers-to-be should shoulder some of the financial burden, the law isn't black and white.
Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

A new law in Utah will require biological fathers-to-be to provide pre-natal child support to the expectant mothers of their unborn children. Under the new law — one unique to Utah, though ABC News reports other states, including Wisconsin and New York, have provisions that can result in similar financial responsibilities for dads-to-be — expectant fathers will be required to pay half a woman’s out-of-pocket medical costs related to the pregnancy.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Brady Brammer, said the measure hopes to decrease the burden of pregnancy on women by encouraging men to take more responsibility. While the law is reportedly not intended to reduce abortions, Brammer has expressed hope that such a result could stem from the new legislation. According to ABC News, Brammer decided to throw his support behind the proposal after becoming frustrated with the number of anti-abortion measures going through the Legislature.

“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.”

Whether reducing abortion was the intention or not, the new law has attracted support from anti-abortion groups. “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.

However, some have pointed out that financial support during pregnancy is unlikely to deter a woman interested in terminating that pregnancy from doing so. Even if financial strain were the sole reason a woman was considering an abortion, it’s not like the financial burden of parenting ends with pregnancy. As Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Katrina Barker noted, “having a child and raising them to adulthood is going to be a lot more money” than either pregnancy alone or abortion.

Meanwhile, others have questioned how much good this law will actually do most women, while some argue it may even cause harm to some. Liesa Stockdale, director of the state’s Office of Recovery Services, expressed doubt that many women in need would actually seek pregnancy-related payments through the legal system, noting that few women in Utah take advantage of their legal right in the state to seek financial support for birth-related costs. Other critics of the new law have raised concerns that the additional financial battle may exacerbate domestic abuse, which already tends to escalate during pregnancy.

Ultimately, while a law that requires fathers to shoulder their share of the financial burden of pregnancy may seem like a good idea, the many nuances of pregnancy and parenthood leave the law’s efficacy, value and even safety in question.

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