Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
This book review of Prenatal Child Support Across the United States, 2nd Edition by Daniel Gump is part of our series of reviews of books touching on the abortion debate. For more information about this series, read our introductory article, “Why Is ERI Doing Book Reviews?”
In my senior year of high school, I joined the debate team. If you didn’t do debate, you might imagine it as primarily consisting in people shouting at each other across a table. Now, debate is different than dialogue and part of the rules of the game, so to speak, is that you get to be snarky and go on offense, and that was the part I enjoyed most. However, the most essential and time-consuming part of debate was the research you did beforehand. We would bring in stacks of printed excerpts and articles so that, whatever point we wanted to make, we could immediately cite why we were right and our opponents were wrong.
Daniel Gump’s Prenatal Child Support Across the United States, 2nd Edition is exactly the kind of book I would have referenced during a debate. At 70 pages including endnotes, it’s a short book, but it’s packed with legal citations and judicial history. At its core, the book is designed to answer one question you might have had if you’ve thought about abortion long enough: are there any states that require fathers to pay child support for a child in the womb?
The idea of prenatal child support is something that periodically comes up in dialogues. Prenatal child support refers to a range of costs which a mother or the state would be able to recover from a father, particularly those for prenatal checkups, labor, and delivery. Sometimes, a pro-choice person uses this aggressively as a means of demonstrating that pro-life people want to let men off the hook but punish women. Other times, either the pro-life or pro-choice person proposes it as a policy idea to help women, whether or not abortion is legal.
But, at least when I’ve talked about it with people, it’s always been as a proposal that a legislature should enact. Are there any legislatures that have actually done it?
After Georgia’s heartbeat bill included a provision on prenatal child support, Gump had the same question (1). So he began researching laws in the various states and U.S. territories expecting to find maybe a handful of laws on the books. Instead, he found that every single state has at least one law either explicitly authorizing or implicitly recognizing the collection of payment from the father for the mother’s prenatal and labor and delivery expenses.
Gump worked backwards from the present day, seeking the earliest instance of prenatal child support laws in each state. He notes that there were a few pushes for uniform legislation (that would be substantially similar in every state). Many states had a prenatal child support law on the books by the 1920s because of the uniformity proposals, with the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act providing the impetus for the final states to approve prenatal child support (3).
After opening with a brief general history (and very helpful graphs on pages 5 and 6), the remainder of the book features a state-by-state summary of legislative history. Each state’s page is accompanied by a picture of a relevant law and quotes of important statutes. Gump also notes if a statute has been repealed or is currently inactive due to being a “trigger” law (a law that only goes into effect if something else changes, like Roe v. Wade being overturned). The state pages generally have a short historical summary, as well.
While the main aim of the work is to show the legal status of prenatal child support laws across the country, some states have “fun facts” that are genuinely interesting. For example, Georgia holds the record for the earliest prenatal child support legislation—it was passed before 1800 (16)! And Minnesota has a unique expectation for the father “to assist with ‘the mother’s lost wages due to medical necessity’” (29).
Gump is upfront about the limitations of his book (4). He has focused in on one neglected topic, the existence and legal history of prenatal child support laws, and does not consider the many thorny issues that accompany it, such as the difficulty of collecting child support, whether these laws could be used to require payment for abortions, etc. While further work expanding upon these topics as they relate to actualizing prenatal child support would be helpful, this book does not need to venture into those issues in order to be useful.
This book is best suited for use as a reference book rather than something to read through in a single setting. If you want to be able to cite your state’s law on prenatal child support when talking with people about issues surrounding abortion and maternal care, you should buy this book. If you have at least one copy of the annual Americans United for Life publication Defending Life, then Prenatal Child Support Across the United States is probably a book that would interest you. Given the very reasonable purchase price for the e-book format specifically, I recommend purchasing it for reference purposes more freely than I would if it cost a more significant amount.
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The post Review: “Prenatal Support Laws Across the United States” originally appeared at the Equal Rights Institute blog. Subscribe to our email list with the form below and get a FREE gift. Click here to learn more about our pro-life apologetics course, “Equipped for Life: A Fresh Approach to Conversations About Abortion.”