Working moms to suffer under TrumpCare
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A bootstrap mythology of American exceptionalism — without women — has become the new Republican ethos. From tweets about a woman’s supposed bloody facelift and dissolving the White House Council on Women and Girls to supporting a version of healthcare that places women’s lives in grave danger, the Trump administration is working to remove women from American life, one policy at a time. 

While the U.S. Senate has put the vote for its healthcare bill on pause, maternity care, by all accounts, is still expected to take a hit. When coupled with unpaid family leave, lack of support to care for newborns creates a disastrous situation for working women. 

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Maternity care is not an essential benefit in the anticipated healthcare proposals, meaning insurance companies are not required to offer coverage for pregnancy care and for having a baby. Pregnant women must either pay for all prenatal care, doctor's appointments, delivery and postpartum care out of pocket, a cost roughly about $30,000 to $50,000.

 

Or they may be forced to pay more per month for insurance if privileged enough to have an insurance carrier that will provide that option, called a rider. A rider is an additional insurance available for an added cost that provides coverage for benefits not included in the standard insurance policy. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated more than $1000 a month of cost for maternity riders if states opt out of maternity coverage.

In addition to the economic stress, pregnant women will have to decide whether to skip costly prenatal vitamins or will miss appointments to save money. These decisions could have dire consequences for the health of the unborn baby and mother. Routine prenatal care improves health outcomes by identifying treatable complications such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and ectopic pregnancies. In addition, babies born to mothers who cannot afford prenatal care are three times more likely to have low birth weight, a health outcome that often leads to in death for infants. How in the world could this be considered pro-life? 

For paid family leave, having access and the means to take leave for a significant amount of time decreases stress in both the mother and infant, improving infant/child development. In fact, for children, the period between birth and three years of age is crucial to development, and having a nurturing caregiver fosters greater development. When mothers are worried about making ends meet or not having paid leave, they return to work too early. This lack of bonding and optimal child development leads to several early illness and diseases. 

One of the best benefits of paid leave is the ability to breastfeed twice as long as those who do not have it. This lowers rates of mortality for infants and young children. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found breastfeeding for less than six months translates to major differences in health outcomes.

Black infants had twice the deaths of white infants attributable to lack of optimal breastfeeding or breastfeeding for at least six months. The study highlighted one of the main barriers to optimal breastfeeding for infants is lack of paid leave, the other being lack of maternal care. Basically, if a mother cannot afford unpaid leave then she has to go back to work almost immediately, which severely reduces the chances of breastfeeding, which increases disparities and potentially mortality for infants. 

Finally, paid leave helps prevent maternal stress and depression. Research shows having less than eight weeks of paid parental leave is associated with a reduction in mental health and overall health status for new mothers.  Other studies point to new mothers who return to work earlier than six months experience heightened postpartum depression. Quality of interaction between mother and infant were much more positive for those who had longer parental leaves.

While Trump ran on the platform of providing paid maternity leave, it seems clear this is not on his list of sweeping policy initiatives, even though a large percentage of the white working class would benefit greatly. While people at the top will not address the policy, other people, institutions including multinational corporations increasingly recognize the necessity of paid family leave that not only creates health families but a healthy society.

Companies operating in more than one country are granting their employees paid time off for caregivingCompanies such as U.K.-based Vodafone, Switzerland-based Nestle, and Swedish music company Spotify provide 14 weeks to six months of paid family leave. These companies aim to set minimum global standards for paid leave for families around the world. Many countries that house these companies know that the United States is an outlier as the only developed country that does not offer paid family leave.

Those opposed to paid parental leave cite lack of funding to support leave policies, and several states and companies have implemented either social insurance programs, slight increases in payroll tax, or expanded business-government partnerships to pay for paid family leave. An American Enterprise Institute-Brookings working group also has ideas on how to pay for this. 

Working parents are in dire need of access to maternity care and an effective parental leave policy that helps to maintain healthy families. Effective family leave policies affect a majority of working Americans. In fact, both parents work full time in half of America’s two-parent households, and 40 percent of American families with children rely on mothers as sole or primary breadwinners. And let’s face it, low-income working families of all races and ethnicities are having a hard time, period.

Shetal Vohra-Gupta is the Associate Director at the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis and Lecturer at the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. She is also a Public Voices Fellow.


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