Opinion: Staying on the job while pregnant just got a little bit easier

Editor’s note: Vicki Shabo is a Senior Fellow at New America, a Washington, DC-based think tank focused on paid family and medical leave, and other work and family policies that promote gender, race, and economic equity. I’m here. She has repeatedly testified before Congress about America’s need for paid vacation and other policies that support women’s participation in the workforce and income. The views expressed here are hers. Read more opinions on CNN.


Over the past three years, several catalytic events have opened the door to new and permanent policy investments in families and the rewriting of rules to promote fairness and gender, racial and economic equity. I should have.

Health, care and economic challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. A racial justice calculation that shines a bright light on the systemic injustices and prejudices that prevent full economic opportunity and fair treatment of people of color. Historic numbers of workers’ strikes and labor actions. The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which limits decisions on women’s reproductive health.

All of this raises questions about power, the role of government, and the need to rebalance the public and private to maximize family opportunity and economic power. When I get home for my vacation, I see progress.

After years of work, as part of the year-end omnibus package, lawmakers passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. rights that other people with legal restrictions have had for years.

An estimated 2.8 million working women become pregnant each year, and about 250,000 are denied pregnancy or do not seek needed pregnancy accommodations. This law will help change that.

Congress also finally closed a gap in current legislation through the PUMP Act, guaranteeing nurse workers space, time and privacy in all their jobs. Before the PUMP Act was passed, an estimated 13 million working-age women were exempt from current lactating mother regulations.

Both measures were adopted as amendments to the $1.7 trillion year-end spending bill that passed the Senate on Thursday. It will now be sent to the House floor on Friday ahead of the midnight deadline.

Perhaps these important and long-awaited victories could herald a sea change. Hitherto, issues related to work, family and care have been largely privately treated by some policy makers. Despite the different kinds of value and overwhelming public support that public investment in policies such as Caregiving is treated as an individual responsibility, but lack of investment has significant social consequences.

Families often have to find crèches and care for the elderly and disabled on their own. This affects the ability of caregivers (mainly women) to work. Professional caregivers are underpaid and underrepresented, creating insecurity and insecurity among care workers.

Access to paid sick leave, family leave and medical leave is not guaranteed to the majority of the workforce and is largely an employer-employee problem, creating huge disparities. , impacts individual and public health, economic security, and workforce robustness. US economy in general.

On the other hand, the tax credit for families with children is only available once a year, so you can’t afford to buy shoes and clothes for your children, pay for band uniforms and excursions, or even put food on the table. It creates difficulties for parents who need to do things, regardless of how they are shown to do so. Temporary advances and increases in the Child Tax Credit (CTC) during the pandemic have reduced child poverty and increased family well-being.

The reality that family work and care issues are seen as private follows Dobbs’ paradoxically making personal decisions on abortion and childbirth issues, leading to heightened public debate. I’m here. The constitutional right to privacy of every American.

Never before in the lifetimes of most people alive today have medical options been so limited and so vulgarly scrutinized. Women in the southern United States, where access to abortion is most limited, poor women, and women of color with maternal and physical problems are particularly affected. Infants have less access to health care and face greater risks associated with childbirth.

We are in an upside down world. What is public now should be private, and what has long been viewed as “bootstrapping yourself up” private is public concern and investment in women. should be viewed as a matter of May your family and country prosper.

Congress’ year-end omnibus spending package might help a bit. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the PUMP Act will greatly help the millions of pregnant and breastfeeding people in the workforce. This is literally the least Congress can do to support healthy pregnancies and babies. Child Care Block Development Grants and increased spending on Head Start will help strengthen the existing child care system.

But this Congress left important work behind. The omnibus package failed to re-establish his CTC enhancements that helped so many families during the pandemic, despite valiant efforts by supporters and congressional advocates. Policy battles earlier this year have been transformative to paid family and medical leave, child care, home and community-based care, proposed by President Biden and passed by the House in November 2021 with his Build Back Better Act. Couldn’t bring in investment.

This recent Congress has done other important things that show that the federal government can do good. And perhaps it offers hope for the future, as success can generate more action.

The Democratic American Rescue Plan includes temporary funding to strengthen childcare and home care providers, reduce family care-related costs, and provide families with more money and flexibility through advanced and enhanced CTCs. included significant investments. Infrastructure bills have been crafted for decades and passed with bipartisan support invested in roads, bridges, technology and more. This is because physical infrastructure is considered a public good, unlike care infrastructure.

Democrats in Congress also made historic investments this year in health care and clean energy, and made adjustments to the Inflation Reduction Act to make tax laws fairer. Earlier this month, Congress passed a law protecting the right of LGBTQ people to marry, doing so bipartisanly. This would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.

So maybe there is a way forward. It’s time to revisit the “free market family” to use a term coined by University of North Carolina law professor Maxine Eichner. The idea that family care and family support is a personal or private matter or subject to individual-level negotiations with employers has long been held by the private sector, wealthy libertarians, and conservative ideologies. It is an idea that has been perpetuated.

But the free market is failing families and economies, and must be overruled by the clear need for new systems that support workers, families, and the workforce as a whole. The evidence is undeniable, investing in care fuels economies and strengthens families. Children and parents are healthier and have better outcomes when families are more financially stable.

After nearly three years of family uncertainty due to the pandemic, a fall season that saw a record number of parents out of the workforce due to caregiving needs and illness, and a historic decline, families’ financial losses fell earlier this year. After increasing difficulties, we should celebrate the victory of pregnant and lactating workers.

But more is needed. As he begins 2023, policymakers should seriously consider how public investments can better support families.

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