Dear (hopefully Madam) President,
What do Swaziland, Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and the United States of America have in common? A lack of paid maternity leave. Swaziland, Lesotho, and Papua New Guinea all have GDPs under 3,500 US dollars, while the US's is about 53,000. What is the excuse for the lack of paid maternity leave in a country as economically powerful and successful as America while Venezuela, a country with a GDP of around 14,000 USD, manages to give women 26 of 100% paid maternity leave with Social Security money? How is it that less generally prosperous countries are able to provide their women with financial support during the beginning of motherhood? By not requiring paid leave, employers are allowed to violate the rights of their female employees by making it nearly impossible to stay home with their newborns and also financially support them. Unpaid leave is simply insufficient. Especially for single mothers, if they do not have paid maternity leave - they will either a. have to take the time off, endangering their employment and losing money, or, b. have to hire childcare services to watch their newborn baby, which can be expensive and not most new mother's ideal situation. Furthermore, pregnancy brings with it a large amount of health risks - many of which culminate with labor, so, sometimes, this maternity leave could also be used for recovery of the mother. In addition, though childbirth and pregnancy are both emotionally and physically exhausting, the first weeks of life are a crucial period of development, and most new parents, mothers especially, want to be the ones the monitor their child's progress.
By not mandating paid maternity leave, the United States reinforces the sexist idea that motherhood is a lesser responsibility than being employed. This idea expects motherhood to come second to work, but this is a decision that no mother should have to face. Pressures of employment should not have to be prioritized to the detriment of the child or the mother. In a country like the United States, this should not be the reality. Attaining women's equality is an ongoing struggle, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. The United States should be a leader in this fight, not lagging behind. It is, quite frankly, embarrassing that the United States does not guarantee women protection from exploitation at the hands of their employers simply for having a child. Any presidential candidate that does not recognize the lack of paid maternity leave as an issue is failing women nationwide.
In conclusion, a person who belittles women should not be able to make decisions involving their finances, legal rights, and especially not reproductive rights. I believe that paid maternity leave is, indeed, a reproductive right. Women should not feel afraid, guilty, or ashamed to be pregnant and become mothers. We must work together as a country to remove the stigma that prevents women from feeling like they can be mothers and also have careers, and this starts with paid maternity leave. The implementation of paid maternity leave would demonstrate our country's dedication to not forcing women to choose which role they will play, and help support women and their families in the turbulent time that is the beginning of a child's life.