Oct 26, 2023 - Health

Democratic lawmakers push paid leave for pregnancy loss

Sen. Tammy Duckworth. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Democratic lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation that would require employers to provide at least seven days of paid time off following a pregnancy loss.

Why it matters: Miscarriages are common, occurring in an estimated 10% to 20% of known pregnancies. While more employers are offering paid leave following a pregnancy loss, there's no national paid leave program.

Details: The bill from Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) would require employers to provide seven days of paid leave annually for a miscarriage, an unsuccessful adoption or surrogacy, or a medical issue that affects pregnancy or fertility.

  • Employees would not have to provide proof of loss to their employer.

What they're saying: Duckworth went through nearly a decade of infertility struggles herself. Once, after having a miscarriage, she had to go back to work the same afternoon, she said.

  • "I just felt very alone," Duckworth told Axios.
  • "When at the last minute you find out you've lost that child or your ability to be a parent to that child, you need to be able to grieve," she said. "That's really the impetus for this."

Duckworth and Pressley introduced a similar bill in 2021 that would've required three days of paid leave for pregnancy loss. Duckworth said the updated version was expanded to seven days to offer workers more flexibility and to match other paid leave legislation Democratic lawmakers have recently proposed.

Where it stands: The bill stands little chance of passage in the divided Congress, and Duckworth said she's still pushing to get Republican co-sponsors.

  • Duckworth said her legislation to require breastfeeding rooms in airports across the country could be a model for how the paid leave policy gets passed.
  • "Once I got the Republican doctors on board, I was able to get other Republicans on board," she said.

Of note: The bill would also give the National Institutes of Health $45 million for research into pregnancy loss and direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop education resources on the topic.

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