A new bill targeting single mothers could prevent their babies from receiving state assistance.
A new bill introduced by Republican lawmakers in Illinois was designed to ensure fathers take financial responsibility for their babies, but it could have devastating consequences for single mothers and their children.
Under the provisions of HB6064, introduced to the Illinois House of Representatives on Feb. 11, women would have 30 days to list the name of the father on a newborn's birth certificate. If the woman doesn't know who fathered her baby or refuses to provide the name of the father, then either a family member must be listed as the person financially responsible for the child on the birth certificate, or no birth certificate will be issued. The family would also be permanently banned from receiving state assistance for the child.
While the proposed bill contains an exemption for artificially inseminated mothers, it doesn't include one for women who become pregnant through rape or incest. It also creates a 30-day timeline for providing the father's name or DNA evidence to establish paternity, even though paternity test results can take as long as 12 weeks to receive (especially when it requires a court order to make a suspected father cooperate with the testing).
In case the reasoning behind the bill wasn't clear, it was introduced after comments made recently by Republican Illinois State Rep. Jeanne Ives, who said she was “not interested in providing child care to people when you don’t even know the paternity.”
“You [had] better know who the ‘daddy’ is and whether or not he can afford that child and whether or not the taxpayers should be funding that or if there’s actual child support he can provide,” Ives said.
Although Illinois is one of 10 states that allows courts to strip rapists of their parental rights based on "clear and convincing evidence" that a rape occurred instead of a rape conviction, this proposed legislation would force women to face their rapists in court, even when doing so puts them at risk. It would also require family members to assume financial responsibility for babies conceived from stranger rape or force women to shoulder the financial burden alone.
Even when rape isn't a factor, this legislation is shockingly anti-child. Birth certificates are generally required to enroll a child in school, obtain a passport and receive a social security number. While work-arounds do exist, not having a birth certificate for your child makes things that should be easy time-consuming and frustrating, and this legislation could make it harder for children to access basic rights like receiving a public school education.
Despite the bill's clear targeting of single mothers, they wouldn't be the ones banned from receiving state assistance. Instead, the ban would make children ineligible for critical services such as health care, food stamps and free or reduced-price school lunches. Their mothers would still be eligible.
No matter how someone feels about a woman's sexual and reproductive choices, it shouldn't have to be said in 2016 that they are hers to make. Policies like these are rooted in slut-shaming and rape culture and have no place in our law books unless we're talking about history. When we hold children accountable for decisions made by their mothers, we put our most vulnerable children at risk.
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