Does Utah adequately fund support for women with unwanted pregnancies?
SALT LAKE CITY — The number one reason Utah women seek an abortion is socioeconomic, according to statistics from the Utah Department of Health.
The Guttmacher Institute found that, nationwide, around 75% of abortion patients in 2014 had an income level below the federal poverty level.
Valerie Hudson, a political science professor at Texas A&M University and an expert in women’s policy issues, feels Senate Bill 174, Utah’s so-called “trigger law” outlawing most abortions, should be a model for other Red states, but she admits it lacks support for mothers who would have otherwise chosen an abortion.
“Currently, Utah law basically says, ‘Suck it up, deal with it,’ and that’s not good enough for the state of Utah,” Hudson said. “There is no funding that has been allocated by the state legislature to support women who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy.”
Hudson said some policy solutions state lawmakers could consider include financial support for a woman during and after pregnancy.
“Perhaps greater access to Medicaid, perhaps Medicaid for longer than just the birth – but for 100 days after. That is what some states have done,” she said.
Paid parental leave policies could also be put in place, she said. The United States is one of two nations in the world that doesn’t guarantee parental leave.
“Americans have been uncreative in supporting mothers who attempt to combine feeding their children with bearing their children,” she said. “We fail on affordable childcare, not just by a third-party, but also support for mothers who wish to stay at home.”
Hudson even encourages state legislators to look at other countries as models.
“If a woman has a certain number of children in Hungary, she is exempt from income tax for the rest of her life. I mean we could be very creative,” she said.
Earlier this year, Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, introduced HB 382 that would have allocated funds for a 24-hour helpline to connect pregnant women with public and private services, medical assistance benefits, and even financial aid for adoption-related expenses. The bill did not pass the House committee, but Hudson said that should not stop the conversation.
“We need to push for the programs and funding that are going to help these women, she said.
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