As of this writing, lawmakers have removed the plan to include paid family leave from a massive spending bill known as Build Back Better.
Despite dozens of campaign promises, and a once-in-a-lifetime political opportunity, it seems that the paid leave that mothers require is no longer likely to be passed.
The mere fact that paid leave for new mothers and fathers is still not seen as critical to our national infrastructure nor as a worthy investment in our citizens’ wellbeing is a devastating blow to all women.
It is 2021, and women are clearly still not accurately represented by our elected representatives.
Guaranteed federal paid leave will reduce infant and maternal mortality—put another way, FEWER BABIES AND MOTHERS DIE—it keep families out of poverty, it improves a womans’ lifetime earnings, it reduces rates of postpartum mental illness, it supports women and children of color who are less likely to have access to paid leave through a private employer, and innumerable benefits that have been long-proven in almost every other country in the world.
And this week, America’s highest representatives said that American mothers don’t need it.
American mothers absolutely need paid leave, but they also want it. Motherly’s State of Motherhood Survey showed that 92% of of all mothers report that society doesn’t do enough to support them, and 73% of US mothers support paid leave policies.
If the vast majority of mothers feel unsupported and want paid leave, why are we on Congress’ chopping block?
It’s almost as if Congress doesn’t understand us, represent us or care about us, the literal bearers of our nation’s future.
It’s far past time to pass paid leave. It’s time for America to stop being a global outlier—one of the only countries in the world that does not guarantee a paycheck to a postpartum mother recovering from birth and bonding with her vulnerable baby.
Paid leave guarantees a mother a paycheck while she gives birth and heals her postpartum body from major surgery or trauma, providing critical time for her medical care and recovery.
Paid leave reduces rates of maternal mortality. Full stop. Significantly fewer mothers will die if they access have paid maternity leave. With an abysmal maternal mortality rate, and a healthcare system stacked against women of color, providing paid leave would also help to alleviate the impact of structural racism on the lives of women of color. (Currently, research shows that Black women are two to three times more likely than white women to die in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications.)
Paid leave improves the likelihood that mothers receive postpartum care, or even make it to their six-week postpartum visits.
Paid leave improves a mothers’ bond with her child, which has been shown to reduce long term rates of mistreatment or abuse.
Paid leave increases vaccination rates among infants whose mothers have access, providing lifelong health benefits.
Paid leave boosts breastfeeding rates and duration for mothers, which has lifelong health benefits for baby and mother, including a reduced rate of breast cancer.
Paid leave increases the long-term labor participation rate of mothers—ensuring she can choose to go back to work when she’s more ready, rather than drop out of the workforce entirely, as many do today.
Paid leave increases the lifetime earnings of women and begins to address the harmful wage gap that keeps our most educated talent (Millennial women) at an ongoing economic disadvantage.
Paid leave has a positive long-term economic impact, keeping families healthier (fewer medical bills), and steadily employed (creating a larger tax base).
Paid leave respects the undue burden physical, financial and logistical that mothers bear in bringing new life into the world.
America is a country that says it cares about women and families, and absolutely refuses to act like it.
It is 2021. Mothers are citizens worthy of political representation and public policy action, too.