A pair of Illinois Republicans have co-sponsored a bill that would refuse to issue a birth certificate to any newborn child whose father is not listed. Hello and welcome to the year 1903!

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Chicagoist reported last week on the bizarre existence of HB6064, filed by state Reps. John D. Cavaletto and Keith Wheeler, which would amend the state’s Vital Records Act. From the legislation:

Provides that if the unmarried mother cannot or refuses to name the child’s father, either a father must be conclusively established by DNA evidence or, within 30 days after birth, another family member who will financially provide for the child must be named, in court, on the birth certificate. Provides that absent DNA evidence or a family member’s name, a birth certificate will not be issued and the mother will be ineligible for financial aid from the State for support of the child. Provides an exception for artificially inseminated mothers. Amends the Illinois Public Aid Code. Provides that a family that does not comply with the Vital Records Act provision concerning birth certificates of unmarried mothers shall be ineligible for aid for support of the child.

Salon points out that the legislation does not include an exemption for rape or incest.

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Single mothers and their children, specifically those from poor and/or non-white backgrounds, have for some reason never quite stopped being perceived as a threat by right wing “family values” bloviators—whether it’s Jeb Bush arguing in a 1995 book for the “public condemnation” of pregnancies “out of wedlock,” Rick Santorum screeching in 2012 about single moms “breeding more criminals,” or more recently, this past September, fellow Illinois State Rep. Jeanne Ives sharing that she is “not interested in providing childcare to people when you don’t even know the paternity.”

Criticizing a bill, eventually killed, that would have provided government-assisted childcare to single, low-income working mothers, Ives’ choice in rhetoric helpfully grounds her empty logic down into the knee-jerk racial and socioeconomic intolerance that this position always represents:

“You 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,” she said at the time.

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It is unclear why a woman who has no support from her family or partner should be stripped of state assistance rather than given priority, or why her child should be declared legally non-existent. The only end this bill is meant to achieve, really, is the fiscal abandonment and ostracization of one of the nation’s most economically vulnerable groups, which is why it’s a very a good thing that there’s a Democratic supermajority in the Illinois House.

UPDATE, 2/26: On Friday, the bill’s co-sponsor Rep. Keith Wheeler withdrew his support and the bill was killed. In a statement given to Illinois reporter Rich Miller at capitolfax.com, Wheeler wrote:

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The intention of HB 6064 was to provide for the long-term support of hardworking single mothers by strengthening the legal responsibilities of fathers, while also improving the rights of fathers as well as grandparents who provide care for a child in place of a parent. However, the bill as introduced has flaws that would produce unintended consequences. I have therefore chosen to withdraw my support of the bill and thank all my constituents and others who offered feedback on both sides of this issue.


Contact the author at ellie@jezebel.com.

Image via Shutterstock.