Gress’ proposal to extend child support payments to date of pregnancy passes House

Arizona House Republicans passed a bill that would extend child support payments to the date of a confirmed pregnancy, which opponents argue is an attempt to establish a fetal personhood provision. 

“This bill is about helping families,” bill sponsor Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix, said Monday on the House floor. “At the end of the day, what we are trying to do with House Bill 2502 is ensure that families have the resources to really make ends meet.” 

The bill passed the House 31-26 along party lines with three Democrats not present to vote. Gress said it was unfortunate the bill was unable to get bipartisan support and that he believes the bill is commonsense, “pro-family” legislation.  

Under Gress’ measure, the retroactive application of child support would be required for consideration by a court to the date a pregnancy was confirmed by a licensed health care professional.  

During debate of the bill, Rep. Analise Ortiz, D-Phoenix, said the bill goes beyond child support and could lead to a complete ban of abortion.  

“It has been a long-stated goal of the radical anti-abortion movement to establish into law that life begins at conception,” Ortiz said. “Although this bill does not outright talk about abortion, there is the potential that a legal argument could easily be made that a fetus or a fertilized egg has more rights than a pregnant person if the date of conception is established into law.” 

Gress said banning abortion isn’t his intent with the bill. Instead, he argued, it provides financial relief to single and expecting mothers for hospital visits and pregnancy services that can be expensive.  

Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, said the intent of the bill is irrelevant to its consequences if it becomes law and the bill would exert state control over pregnant people. 

“The effect is taking that control from the person to determine their own self-determination, their own life outcomes, and instead puts that in the hands of politicians,” Salman said. “It’s very disturbing to see this happening.” 

The Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, lists that a fetal personhood law has already been established in Arizona. Former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed SB 1164 in 2022, which establishes a 15-week abortion ban. The law was upheld in December 2022 by the Arizona Court of Appeals.  

The language of the 15-week abortion ban prohibits abortions if the “probable gestational age of the unborn human being has been determined to be greater than fifteen weeks.” The Guttmacher Institute doesn’t include Gress’ bill on its national list of bills that establish fetal personhood. 

Republicans argue the bill responds to a left-wing critique of the anti-abortion movement that carrying out a pregnancy could be a financial burden on economically disadvantaged women and families. Rep. Alexander Kolodin, R-Scottsdale, raised this point during debate of the bill and said he was shocked Democrats opposed the bill. 

“You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t,” Kolodin said. 

Ortiz also said the bill doesn’t distinguish child support payments from women, and expressed concern that state law could allow courts to rule some pregnant women pay child support during their own pregnancies. She also noted women’s rights organizations, including the National Organization for Women, the Arizona Center for Empowerment and the National Council for Jewish Women, oppose the bill. 

“I really don’t appreciate sitting here and having to listen to men tell me what policies are best for mothers and children,” Ortiz said.  

Gress shared that he was raised by a single mother who received child support payments and said he doesn’t believe the scenario Ortiz highlighted would happen under his bill. He said he trusts the judicial system to handle “tragic” situations and protect women, pointing out that 85% of men pay child support.  

That statistic is found in the 2010 U.S. Census, which notes 85% of child support providers were male and payments averaged $5,450 annually for men. Gress said the bill primarily targets single women who have been left by the father. 

“What we’re trying to tell folks in this bill is that men need to step up,” Gress said during his explanation of his vote for the bill. “There are costs that occur before that baby is born and they ought to pay their fair share,” he added.  

The bill now moves to the Senate. If passed by the Senate, it may be halted by Democrat Gov. Katie Hobbs if she shares a similar stance as House Democrats. 

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