Jul 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Duckworth, Pressley push bill requiring paid leave for pregnancy loss

Photo of Tammy Duckworth speaking from a podium with two American flags behind her

Photo: Sarah Silbiger via Getty Images

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) introduced legislation on Tuesday that would require employers to give workers at least three days of paid time off after a pregnancy loss, failed adoption or surrogacy, unsuccessful fertility procedure, or related medical concern.

Why it matters: Between 10% and 20% of pregnancies confirmed by testing result in a miscarriage by 13 weeks, according to Kaiser Family Foundation. Estimates jump to 31–50% when accounting for people who miscarry without knowing they are pregnant.

  • The U.S. currently has no federal paid leave program.
  • Those who are eligible for the Family and Medical Leave Act can only use up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn, newly adopted child, family member or oneself if they have a serious health condition.

What she's saying: Duckworth said she suffered a miscarriage in the thick of her 2016 Senate campaign. "I found out in the morning ... and had to go back to work in the afternoon, and I really needed time to process," Duckworth, who was the first U.S. senator to give birth while in office, told CBS News.

  • "Immediately I thought, did I do something wrong? Did I not give myself the progesterone shots at the right time? Is it my fault that I've had this miscarriage?" Duckworth said, recalling her experience with in vitro fertilization. 
  • "It's so deeply personal, that journey to parenthood for families, and to have to go back to work that same day and not be able to grieve. ... Or sometimes you need to pull your resources together and figure out what you're going to do next and not have that time — to me it seems like this is something that's an oversight when it comes to family leave policies."
"It's a lived experience and why diversity matters in Congress," she noted. "I think it takes women in office who have gone through this to really bring it to the forefront." 

Worth noting: The bill would also direct the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to offer additional support resources related to pregnancy loss, funneling $45 million annually to the National Institutes of Health for research.

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