Utah fathers are now obliged to pay half of their mother’s medical expenses related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Proponents of the law say it is considered the first kind in the United States and helps reduce the financial burden on women in the United States.
The bill was passed with bipartisan support, but questions have been raised about the cost of raising children in the United States and the increasing number of states’ anti-abortion bills.
What does the law say?
Utah’s Shared Medical Expenses Act requires biological fathers to pay half of their mother’s premium (monthly health insurance premium) during pregnancy and all other related medical expenses, including childbirth.
For insured US women, childbirth costs an average of $ 4,500 (£ 3,254). According to a survey by the Health Affairs Journal Tracked costs from 2008 to 2015.
For those without coverage, this number can more than double. The non-profit Fair Health organization reported an average close to $ 10,000.
If the child’s father is at stake, the father can delay payment until the father is proven.
The payment process is not automatic. As with child support, if a woman does not seek help, her father will not be notified.
If a woman wishes to have an abortion, the same financial obligations do not apply.
Biological fathers do not have to bear the cost of an abortion if they are asked to have an abortion without their consent, except in the case of rape or when the mother’s life is at stake.
According to Planned Parenthood, the cost of an uninsured abortion is approximately $ 1,000 (£ 722).
The law, which came into force on May 5, was unanimously passed in the state Senate with bipartisan support, but faced democratic opposition in the House of Representatives.
Why was it introduced?
State legislature Brady Brammer, one of the bill’s sponsors, said he wanted a bill that was “actually pro-life” after a series of anti-abortion bills introduced in the state.
“We can support pregnant mothers and newborns and don’t have to be about abortion,” Brammer, a Republican against abortion, told the BBC.
Since joining Congress in 2019, Brammer has seen many abortion bills in place. Every time, “they are controversial and emotional,” he said. But the “core” of the problem is that “some people are in a really tough position in life and are making really tough decisions in life.”
“Maybe we can make that situation a little easier,” he said.
Many pro-choice activists reject the claim that abortion is a desperate act. This is often done by “scary, alone, poor” people, as Brammer explained.
In the United States, 24% of women will have an abortion by the age of 45, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports access to abortion. However, almost half of these women live below the federal poverty line.
What is the criticism?
Abortion-rights supporters and women’s groups say they support efforts to reduce the costs of pregnancy and childcare.
But the law isn’t the best approach, planned parent-child spokeswoman Katrina Barker told NBC News.
“Expanded Medicaid [low-income health scheme], Better insurance coverage, fair access to reproductive health care, and paid parental leave are just a few ways policy makers can do much more, “says Baker.
And pregnancy support has little effect in reducing the financial burden of having children in the United States.
According to the USDA, families spend an average of $ 233,610 on raising children born in 2015. This is a number that does not include college costs.
Despite Brammer’s claim that the new law can be “life-supporting” rather than about abortion, it still stirs up existing controversy about access to abortion in Utah.
For some anti-abortion activists in his state, it’s part of the legitimate web where they want to further limit access to abortion.
“We very much consider this a pro-life bill,” Merrilee Boyack, chairman of Utah without an abortion, told the BBC. Ms. Boyak previously stated that the goal of her organization was to make abortion “unthinkable.”
“I think every law in this area will be needed to be effective in supporting living culture,” Boyak said.
State Republicans, including Mr. Brammer, are making it increasingly difficult to seek an abortion in Utah.
In 2019, they passed a proposal to ban selective abortion 18 weeks after pregnancy. Women who wish to have an abortion before that time should receive pregnancy counseling. It contains information that can discourage abortion and waits 72 hours before providing the procedure.
And last year, Utah State Legislators passed a so-called “trigger ban,” which bans almost all abortions if the 1973 Supreme Court’s decision to legalize abortion for the first time in the country is overturned.
Graphics by Angélica Casas