Congressional Republicans filed legislation Wednesday that would allow courts to order child-support payments to be sent to women while they are pregnant.
Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana are leading the Capitol Hill effort as the GOP searches for ways to support women who will be expected to carry children to birth in states that banned abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The Unborn Child Support Act would let courts award payments while the child is in the womb, instead of waiting until after birth, and could award the payments retroactively to the point of conception.
“Caring for the well-being of our children begins long before a baby is born. It begins at the first moment of life – conception – and fathers have obligations, financial and otherwise, during pregnancy,” Mr. Cramer said. “Mothers should be able to access child support payments as soon as she is supporting a child. Our bill makes this possible.”
Sponsors said women who do not want the father of the unborn child involved in any way would not be required to accept the payments.
They also said paternity tests would be at the discretion of the mother and not be conducted if the test would put the child at risk.
“Life begins at conception, and this bill is a straightforward first step towards updating our federal laws to reflect that fact,” Mr. Johnson said.
Republicans who cheered the justices’ decision to overturn the broad national right to abortion are under pressure to provide support for moms.
Democrats are trying to use anger over the ruling as a political cudgel in this mid-term season, so efforts to support families may blunt that effort to a degree.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican whose state banned abortion except to save the life of the mother, said her state will hold a special legislative session later this year to consider new services.
“We must do what we can to help mothers in crisis know that there are options and resources available for them,” Ms. Noem said. “Together, we will ensure that abortion is not only illegal in South Dakota — it is unthinkable.”
Sponsors pointed to a recent poll conducted by YouGov America on behalf of the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy that found relatively strong support for providing child support at conception.
Pollsters said almost half of respondents — 47% — like the idea, including 53% of Democrats, 47% of Republicans and 40% of independents. By contrast, 28% opposed it and 25% were not sure.
The poll found that 46% of pro-life persons and 49% of pro-choice persons support the idea.
Despite the support from voters, it is doubtful that Senate Democrats who narrowly control the Senate will back the proposal. Critics say it is an attempt to paper over the fallout from the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned the 1973 Roe decision.
Additional Senate sponsors include Republican Sens. Steve Daines of Montana, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Rick Scott of Florida, Roger Marshall of Kansas, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Marco Rubio of Florida.
“I hope good legislation, like the Unborn Child Support Act, gets more support now that the Dobbs decision encourages us to look more seriously at supporting mothers and their unborn children,” Ms. Hyde-Smith said.
Bill sponsors said their effort is backed by major pro-life groups, including the Susan B. Anthony List, March for Life, Family Research Council, and Concerned Women for America.