OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Anastasia A. Pittman said today’s legislative study on shared parenting from conception examined how Oklahoma child protection statutes can be expanded to provide paternal support for infants in utero.
“Oklahoma law defines an ‘unborn child’ as a human from fertilization until birth,” said Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. “Our law also makes anyone who injures an unborn child knowingly to be guilty of a felony. Given those precedents, it seems only logical that we would expect some degree of paternal responsibility and aid from the moment of conception. For the first nine months, many unintended and out-of-wedlock pregnancies become the shared responsibility of the mother and our government. It is only after the child is born that the state ramps up efforts to establish paternity and initiate child support collections. Today, we looked at how we can ensure shared parenting takes place from the moment an unborn child is created.”
The study showed that paternity can be established in the 14th week of pregnancy in a non-invasive procedure using prenatal fetal DNA present in the mother’s plasma. Invasive procedures such as amniocentesis cost almost twice as much as the fetal DNA test, which is 99 percent accurate in determining whether a man is or is not the father of an unborn child.
Teen childbearing in Oklahoma cost taxpayers at least $190 million in 2008, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Meanwhile, student teen moms and their children are receiving less aid. For example, the Emerson Alternative High School Early Head Start clinic, which had helped teen mothers for 30 years, was forced to close due to a $141,000 funding cut as part of legislative efforts to balance the state budget.
Oklahoma is among the states with the highest teen birth rates, according to 2009 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vital Signs report. Meanwhile, budget cuts have led to higher co-payments and reduced eligibility for child-care subsidies through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
“The emotional burden born by expectant mothers is really incalculable when dads don’t step up right away,” Pittman said. “With fewer services available to teen moms, it is critical that fathers share parental responsibility from conception. Deadbeat dads cost the state of Oklahoma and single mothers to cover prenatal and postpartum costs. By strengthening our child neglect-and-abuse laws and mandating shared parenting from conception, we will not just save tax dollars, but we will also ease the burden on mothers and possibly save the life of the unborn child.”