A new bill passed in Utah, U.S. will require biological fathers in the state to pay for half of the out-of-pocket costs of pregnancy, NBC News reports.
The bill, sponsored by Republican state representative Brady Brammer was signed by Governor Spencer Cox after receiving widespread support from lawmakers in the state.
The bill now requires fathers 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.
According to the legislation, if paternity is disputed, the father of the child owes no money until paternity is established.
The bill also states that if a mother receives an abortion without the biological father’s consent, the biological father owes no money, unless the abortion is necessary to avert the death of the mother or if the mother was pregnant as a result of rape or incest.
Utah appears to be the only state to mandate pre-birth support, according to Brammer and the state’s planned parenthood association
If the paternity of the child is disputed, fathers won’t be required to pay until after paternity is established. The father also wouldn’t be financially responsible for the cost of abortion received without his consent unless it’s necessary to prevent the death of the mother or if the pregnancy was the result of rape.
In Utah, mothers already have the option to seek support related to birth expenses through the courts but few do, said Liesa Stockdale, director of the state’s office of recovery services, which typically collects child support. She said mothers will now have the option to also seek pregnancy-related payments through the legal system, but it’s unclear how often they will pursue it.
“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 is not intended to lower the frequency of abortions, but Brammer said that could be a potential result.
Anti-abortion activists have lauded the bill, however, saying it will protect the lives of unborn children by supporting women through their pregnancy. Merrilee Boyack, chairman of the Abortion-Free Utah coalition, said she hopes this bill will decrease abortions in the state by lessening economic pressures on new moms.
“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,” Boyack said.
The new legislation comes on top of a long list of restrictions Utah has placed on abortion. Last year, the state approved a measure that would make abortions illegal if the U.S. supreme court overturns the decades-old ruling that legalized it nationwide. The Utah measure would make it a felony to perform the procedure, except in cases involving rape, incest and serious threat to the life of a mother.