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Utah bill to make biological fathers ‘step up to the plate’ for pregnancy passes House

Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Highland discusses HB113 during a House Judiciary Standing Committee at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. The bill would allow pregnant women to seek payment of 50% of her out-of-pocket pregnancy and delivery medical costs and insurance premiums from the biological father. If paternity is disputed, he would owe not need to pay under the bill until his paternity is established.
Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Highland, discusses HB113 during a House Judiciary Standing Committee at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. The bill would allow pregnant women to seek payment of 50% of her out-of-pocket pregnancy and delivery medical costs and insurance premiums from the biological father. If paternity is disputed, he would owe not need to pay under the bill until his paternity is established.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah bill that would allow expectant and new mothers to seek payment for 50% of their pregnancy and delivery medical bills from biological fathers passed the House.

“This seeks to be pro-life without being anti-abortion,” bill sponsor Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Highland, said Wednesday.

He said he wanted to run a bill that would encourage fathers to “step up to the plate” to take responsibility.

HB113 would require biological fathers to share pregnancy and delivery costs with the mother equally only if the mother seeks payment. If third-party groups or insurance plans cover costs outside of premiums, the man would not need to split those bills. The law would only affect costs the mother personally incurs, Brammer said.

Fathers would also only need to pay if paternity is established. Under the bill, the Office of Recovery Services could seek payment from fathers as it does for child support, according to Brammer.

Ahead of a final vote on the bill, some in the House expressed concerns about potential unintended consequences of giving biological fathers financial involvement.

Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Sandy, praised Brammer for trying to make sure women’s health care costs are covered, but she said she fears it will lead to men trying to influence women’s medical decisions in their pregnancies.

An average C-section procedure costs about $50,000, while a vaginal delivery carries a bill of about $30,000, noted Harrison, who is an anesthesiologist.

“If we’re creating a new requirement that no other state has that a biological father be financially responsible for half the costs of health care for a woman during pregnancy, I’m worried that some men may respond to this financial obligation in a way that benefits them financially,” Harrison said.

She said men could potentially pressure women into getting an abortion, delivering at home instead of in a hospital, or delivering vaginally instead of through a C-section — even if it’s deemed necessary by the woman’s doctor — due to the smaller price tag.

“These kinds of financial obligations are powerful, and I’m very concerned about unintended consequences,” Harrison said.

Brammer noted that other states have implemented similar policies, including New York and Colorado.

Rep. Cheryl Acton, R-West Jordan, asked if women could seek repayment for medical bills after the baby is born, meaning they wouldn’t need to consult with the father in medical decisions.

Brammer said that in many cases, payment likely won’t be sought until after the babies are born due to typical medical billing procedures.

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, also said he worries about “reproductive coercion” that could result by making men financially responsible for pregnancy bills. He said he sees improvement of maternal health care resources, insurance coverage for contraception, and comprehensive sex education as better ways to address the issue.

The bill passed the House with a 57-13 vote along party lines. It will move to the Senate for consideration.