• Fathers in Utah are now required to pay for half of a woman's pregnancy costs
  • The state is the first to require prenatal child support
  • The legislation aims to combat anti-abortion legislations

A new law in Utah will legally require biological fathers to pay for half of a woman’s out-of-pocket pregnancy costs in an effort to address maternal health care needs.

Utah would be the first state to require prenatal child support, the state’s Planned Parenthood Association and the bill’s sponsor said. Several states, such as New York and Wisconsin, already have provisions that can lead to fathers having to pay pre-birth expenses.

The measure in Utah, which was signed by Republican Gov. Spencer Cox, aims to decrease the burden of pregnancy costs on women and increase the responsibility for men.

But critics say the legislation wouldn't be enough to help women who are most vulnerable and argue that the law could exacerbate abusive and dangerous situations for pregnant women.

Utah Republican Rep. Brady Brammer said he sponsored the measure to combat the 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.”

Under the new bill, fathers would be required to pay half of a pregnant woman’s health insurance premiums and medical costs related to pregnancy.

However, fathers won’t be required to pay if the paternity of the child is disputed unless both parties can establish paternity. Men also would not be financially responsible for the cost of abortion received without their consent. That rule would not apply if the abortion is done to prevent the death of the mother or if the pregnancy was the result of rape.

Currently, the state of Utah allows mothers to seek support related to birth expenses through the courts, but not many choose to go through the process, according to Liesa Stockdale, director of the state’s Office of Recovery Services.

Stockdale noted that the new law provides mothers to pursue pregnancy-related payments through the legal system.

“I don’t know how often it will be used,” Stockdale said. “That’s yet to be seen how often parents will choose to pursue these costs. But certainly, if they do, we’re here to collect.”

The bill comes on top of many restrictions the Utah government has placed on abortion. In 2020, the state approved a measure that would make it illegal to perform the procedure, unless the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest, or if the pregancy poses a serious threat to the mother’s life. The measure would go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade ruling.

Although delicate, pregnancy is a beautiful time for mothers and would-be mothers. Photo by Pixabay (CC0)