November 18, 2022

Paid Maternity Leave Finds an Unlikely Champion, But Is That Enough?

On the heels of some important wins for paid leave in the 2020 election, paid maternity leave has found a new supporter. One who you might not have expected: conservative co-host of The View Megan McCain. She had her epiphany while dealing with medical-related complications after she gave birth. According to McCain, she realized how unfair it must be that people with similar experiences with maternity, but without her access to wealth and power, are forced to choose between their own health and drawing a paycheck. So, when she returned to her job, she asked her co-hosts to make paid maternity leave a priority for their work in 2021.

As the Washington Post columnist Monica Hesse notes, you don’t look the other way when someone comes on board to your political views, even when you may have strongly differing views on many other points. Another advocate with such a large following demanding politicians to make paid maternity leave a reality is important, and one we applaud. As we have noted more times than we care to recall, the United States remains the only OECD country to not have a comprehensive national paid leave scheme for new parents (nor paid leave schemes for workers in general).

The challenge is, Hesse notes, “how we can speed up this process so that it doesn’t require every leave-denier to personally birth a child before they also get on board.” Hesse, unfortunately, has no ready answers beyond the suggestion that “empathy is a muscle” that needs to be strengthened. 

It might be better if we see access to maternity leave as part of a larger constellation of rights necessary for a humane and dignified existence. Like a constellation, each part of this grouping of rights is connected to others. Quality universal medical care and childcare, robust unemployment programs, and equal access to education and other tools of enrichment are all members of this constellation. What we have to do is connect the dots, which allows people to recognize that while every individual has unique experiences, each is part of a larger sum, a society.


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