When it comes to shouldering the costs of pregnancy, biological fathers in Utah will now be required to share the burden with their pregnant partners. A bill that recently passed in Utah seeks to increase responsibility for men who have children by requiring fathers to pay half of a woman's out-of-pocket pregnancy costs.
The bill's sponsor, Republican state Representative Brady Brammer, presented the measure in order to decrease the burden of pregnancy on pregnant persons. Utah is the first state to mandate prenatal child support, though states like Wisconsin and New York have legal provisions in place that result in a father being financially responsible for his partner's pre-birth experience.
Though lessening the financial burden for pregnant people is important, the bill has drawn some criticism for not helping more vulnerable pregnant people. Critics also argue that the bill could also make abusive situations more dangerous for those who are pregnant. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, approximately 324,000 pregnant people are abused each year in the U.S.
The bill has many people advocating for improving pregnancy-related healthcare overall, by making it affordable and easy to access so those who are pregnant wouldn't be reliant on such a measure for assistance. Expanding Medicaid, access to contraception and providing paid parental leave, for example, are also ways the government can help expecting parents.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox recently signed the proposal. Rep. Brammer said he decided to sponsor the measure with the intent to make it easier to bring new 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 of the ways to help with that was to help the burden of pregnancy be decreased."
The bill would apply to a pregnant woman's health insurance premiums and any pregnancy-related medical costs. It also stipulates that if the paternity of the child is disputed, fathers won't be required to pay until after paternity is determined. If a pregnant person chooses to get an abortion, the bill states that fathers won't be responsible for the cost of the procedure if it was acquired without his consent—unless the abortion is considered to be life-saving, or if the pregnancy was the result of rape.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the average cost of raising a child is $233,610, excluding the cost of college, for a middle-income family. The cost of an abortion can range from $0-$1,000 depending on health insurance and a person's location, according to Planned Parenthood.
Gabriella Archuleta, a public policy analyst with YWCA Utah, told NBC News that domestic abuse tends to escalate during pregnancy, and prenatal child support could increase stressors about financially supporting a baby. Pregnant people in Utah already have the option to seen financial support toward pregnancy and birth-related expenses, but very few actually end up doing so because of the cost of legal services.
"On the surface of it, it sounds like a good idea," Archuleta said. "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.