A bill that would require a biological father to pay half of the out-of-pocket pregnancy costs for the woman carrying their unborn child passed unanimously through the Utah Senate on Thursday.
HB113, which requires a final procedural vote in the Senate before heading to the governor for his signature or veto, would apply to a pregnant mother’s health insurance premiums and all medical costs related to the pregnancy from conception to birth.
Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, said the bill is an effort “to try and bring some equity to the funding of pregnancies and share in that burden and [to recognize] the important role that the mother and the father play in the pregnancy.”
And it would ensure “that cost for the long term is a shared expense and not to be borne solely by one party,” he said Thursday.
The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Highland, has also presented the proposal as a pro-life effort to to increase responsibility for men who bring children into the world.
Under the proposal, a father wouldn’t be required to pay for costs associated with an abortion received without his consent, unless the mother’s life was in danger or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. The bill also stipulates that a father would not be on the hook for any pregnancy-related costs if paternity was in question until he’s established as the father. Afterward, he could be required to pay his share of expenses as verified through receipts.
Throughout the bill’s journey through the Legislature, some dissenters have worried that the bill could unintentionally tie women financially to abusive partners.
Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said Thursday that she spoke to the sponsor for clarification on that point and was confident that it would “not open doors for anything that could put a survivor of domestic violence in any fear.”
The Office of Recovery Services, which is tasked with collecting child support, would act under the bill as an intermediary between the mother and father to collect the payments, ensuring that anyone who has left an abusive relationship doesn’t have to have “more interactions that you don’t have to.” And a mother is not required under the bill to seek payment but is allowed to do so if she chooses.
“There’s a lot of pieces in this,” Escamilla said. “I think it’s a good bill. It’s about sharing costs when both parties are involved.”
During debate on the bill in the House, Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper and a medical doctor, worried some men may use the requirements in the bill to pressure women to seek care that is less expensive — such as coercing them to get an abortion, which she said on average costs around $1,000, compared to a C-section, which on average costs around $50,000.
Brammer said he believes there are existing structures that could create similar financial incentives, such as requirements that men pay for child support. And there are other states that have similar provisions that haven’t seen such problems emerge, he noted.
The bill passed through the House earlier this month on a 57-13 vote, with all Democrats voting in opposition.