BATON ROUGE, La. — The House Civil Law and Procedure Committee moved forward a bill that would allow mothers to recuperate half of the out-of-pocket, pregnancy-related medical expenses from the father of their child.
After the baby is born, the mother would have two years to recover these expenses, which would not include costs covered by insurance. Under present law, women have no avenue for this action.
“I think this is a very good bill to really help the pregnant women in our state who have no way to recover these medical expenses,” said Rep. Lawrence “Larry” Frieman, R-Abita Springs, the bill’s author.
The bill requires that paternity be proven by clear and convincing evidence, with the burden of proof requiring paternity to be more likely true than untrue.
The proposed law, House Bill 5, garnered support from both anti-abortion and abortion rights groups, including Louisiana Right to Life and 10,000 Women Louisiana.
The bill comes on the heels of a near-total abortion ban in Louisiana after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which has raised questions for lawmakers about supporting mothers.
The bill was amended to outline which pregnancy-related medical expenses could be recovered from the biological father by the biological mother.
The bill would accept "actual medical expenses," which include costs incurred for prenatal care, including hospital visits, pharmaceutical expenses and travel. Additional expenses incurred during the pregnancy, determined to be “reasonable and necessary” under a judge’s discretion, may also be eligible for reimbursement.
There was discussion about what counted as a reasonable medical expense.
Rachael Catalanotto, a St. Tammany Parish lawyer, said mothers could submit prenatal vitamins and other “[types] of expenses that mothers take on during the pregnancy that they would not have otherwise.”
Rep. Gregory A. Miller, R-Norco, asked if Lamaze classes fell under the bill. Catalanotto said those classes would ultimately be up to a judge.
Morgan Lamandre, the chief executive and president of Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response, raised concerns that the two-year period to recover the expenses was not enough.
Lamandre also argued the bill should extend to miscarriages and stillbirths because women still incur pregnancy costs in these scenarios. Maternity clothes should also be considered a reasonable expense, she said.