Pro-choice Oklahoma Rep. Forrest Bennet, D, recently found himself in a lurch after he proposed HB3129, a bill that would require the father of a baby to pay for half of the medical care related to the mother’s pregnancy. Bennet meant the bill as a kind of vindictive response to the state’s restriction on abortion.
Bennet tweeted, “This week I filed HB3129, which codifies that a father’s financial responsibility to his baby & their mom begins at conception. If Oklahoma is going to restrict a woman’s right to choose, we sure better make sure the man involved can’t just walk away from his responsibility.”
The text of the bill required that the father pay for 50 percent of the pregnancy costs. The bill stated, “If paternity is disputed, the biological father owes no duty under this section until the biological father’s paternity is established.” Pregnancy costs could be retroactively required in the case that paternity was not established until later.
In a surprise to Bennet, however, conservatives seized on the bill and enthusiastically voiced their support for it. Even satire site “The Babylon Bee’s” non-satire sister site, “Not The Bee,” picked up on the proposal, celebrating Bennet as “the pro-lifer of the year.”
Fr. Matthew P. Schneider chimed in with, “Great move! Let’s pass these bills in all 50 states.”
Another pro-life supporter tweeted, “The fact that you frame your proposal this way leads me to believe that you don’t understand our prolife movement. We 100% believe in personal responsibility, for fathers as well as mothers.”
After it became clear that he had stepped in a trap of his own making, Bennet announced he would change the bill, tweeting, “Let me get this out of the way: obviously I’m not moving forward with this bill as written. I’m glad many of you understood the idea but it clearly needs work. So to actual constituents of mine like @realmartypeercy who requested that I go back to the drawing board, I hear you.”
In another tweet, he stated, “Many of you got the subtext that Oklahoma is champing at the bit to outlaw abortion & define life as beginning at conception. But if you didn’t, you might think I want those things. I do not.”
Finally, he explained, “Planning for that possible reality is important though, because as those of us who believe in abortion access fight for it, we also need to mitigate the consequences of legislation that pushes us in the other direction.”
Conservatives were thrilled to see the bill introduced because it made the same two critical points they’ve been making for years: 1) life begins at conception, and 2) a father holds equal parentage with the mother.
Conservatives fully support men being required to support their child, therefore the concept behind this bill is one we should all get behind: Men should take care of their families.
This type of bill has additional potential benefits, such as decreasing the number of abortions and getting fathers to be more to be involved in their child’s life, beginning at conception. If the father provides financial assistance with pregnancy expenses and were to have some involvement from the start, that could encourage women to continue in their pregnancy and could also increase the possibility that the father will become and remain fully involved in their child’s life. A possible measure to add to bills like this are that the father is allowed to be present during ultrasound appointments.
This is a positive development, yet the underlying problem is that children should, as God designed, be born into a family in which the mother and father are both present. Marriage protects both women and children by requiring a man to stick around and take care of his family, rather than allowing him to shirk his full responsibility by simply sending a check. Fatherhood is a lot more than being a piggy bank and children need a positive father figure in the home.
As a general rule, kids who grow up with married parents are healthier, both mentally and physically; perform better in school; are more likely to go to college; earn more; and more likely to have healthier marriages later on. Having a father in the home provides children great benefit, both tangible and intangible.
Ultimately, it is sad that a bill like this is something that is necessary. Men shouldn’t have to be ordered by the state to financially support the children they father. It is, however, a step in the right direction, because it recognizes the humanity of the child from the start and it also recognizes the rights and responsibilities of a father.
Bennet may have already backtracked on this bill, but conservatives should pick up on the idea and move forward with it immediately. It’s good for children, it’s good for mothers, and it’s ultimately good for fathers.