Senator Tammy Duckworth Aims to Give Paid Leave for Pregnancy Loss

Senator Tammy Duckworth is gearing up to pass her new Support Through Loss Act that will give benefits to families who experience painful challenges during their pregnancy journey. Your Political Playlist, Emily Tisch Sussman, explains why it's so important.

An image of Tammy Duckworth.
Photo: Getty Images.

Senator Tammy Duckworth was told by a doctor to "just go home and enjoy your husband" because she was "too old" to conceive. Her journey to parenthood was not unlike many women today, and as the conversation around paid leave grows, Senator Duckworth and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley introduced a new bill, the Support Through Loss Act, that will raise awareness about infertility and pregnancy loss and also give paid leave to those who have experienced loss during a pregnancy.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, conversation around paid leave has flourished on the national stage, with more political leaders recognizing that guaranteed paid leave for our nation's workforce would be good not just for their poll numbers, but for the economy, and most importantly, families. But too often, these conversations are limited to those who have successful pregnancies and ignore the challenges many people face before becoming parents. That's why it was so groundbreaking when New Zealand approved a law in March providing paid leave for people who suffer from miscarriages. And now, the Support Through Loss Act would provide similar benefits for families in the United States.

So, what would this new bill mean for families and prospective parents? Your Political Playlist podcast host, Paid Leave U.S. Senior Advisor, and political strategist Emily Tisch Sussman breaks down the new Support Through Loss Act.

What is the Support Through Loss Act?

The Support Through Loss Act would establish a minimum of three days of paid leave for individuals "following a pregnancy loss, an unsuccessful assisted reproductive technology procedure, a failed adoption arrangement, a failed surrogacy arrangement, or a medical diagnosis or event that impacts pregnancy or fertility."

Senator Duckworth, who faced her own struggles said, "the decision to start a family can be so many things—thrilling, life-changing and carefully thought out—but the road to parenthood is not always easy and for many, it can be full of setbacks and disappointments," said Senator Duckworth in a statement. "My family faced our own heartbreaks and challenges when growing our family and I wouldn't have my two girls today if it weren't for the miracle of IVF. The Support Through Loss Act would provide so many hopeful parents with the support they need when experiencing loss, which is why I'm so proud to introduce this bill with Congresswoman Pressley to shine a light on the experiences of families across the nation."

In addition to the expansion of paid leave benefits, the Act would invest $45 million per year into research on miscarriages and other forms of pregnancy loss and require the CDC and other government health-related agencies to provide information for the public about pregnancy loss. These investments would ensure that parents have access to the information needed to inform the tough decisions required before, during, and after pregnancy.

Why the Support Through Loss Act Matters So Much

Despite the stigmas that remain around pregnancy loss, it's more common than many people realize. In fact, as many as 10 to 15 percent of confirmed pregnancies are lost. And there's no indication that this will change anytime soon, especially given the pandemic's negative impact on maternal health.

Lost pregnancies can lead to long-term post-traumatic stress and other significant mental health challenges, such as anxiety and depression. The legislation acknowledges this and would provide space for parents to process their loss, as well as reduce the stigma associated with these challenges.

"Like me, those who struggle with infertility and have experienced pregnancy loss know the pain of not only losing the pregnancy but of suffering in silence. It is far past time that we give women and parents the ability to grieve and cope with their own mental health challenges," said Ellen Gustafson, mother of three, co-founder of Military Family Building Coalition and FEED, and infertility activist.

Pregnancy loss is also part of the larger health inequity conversation, something that co-author Congresswoman Pressley, a founding member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, works to address in her work in the Capitol. Not only are Black mothers more likely to experience pregnancy loss, but women of color also are overrepresented in low-wage jobs that are less likely to have supports such as paid leave. The Support Through Loss Act would help ensure that everyone who experiences pregnancy loss would have access to the same paid leave benefits, no matter one's workplace or salary.

Marisa Renee Lee, co-founder of Supportal, has experienced roadblocks on her journey to motherhood and writes openly about the grief that can accompany them. She says that the Support Through Loss Act is "a piece of legislation that gets to the core of what paid leave means. The journey of pregnancy can be challenging, and the grief that so many face is real and needs to be recognized. I hope millions of families can find relief and space to heal through this bill."

What's Next?

Now that the legislation has been introduced into Congress, it will need to make its way through the Senate and House. Simultaneously, Congress is working on a larger reconciliation package that will address human infrastructure needs like paid leave, child care, and more. Currently, 1 in 3 Americans do not have a single day of paid leave to care for themselves or their loved ones.

As the two pieces of legislation move through Congress be sure to voice support for expanding paid leave and the Support Through Loss Act, by calling your legislators at (202) 224-3121.

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