Our country says it values mothers, but what’s the reality? The spotlight this week has been on the leak of a Supreme Court draft decision reversing Roe v Wade, which has vast implications, but that’s not the only issue on the table affecting the well-being of moms.
Here’s a quick rundown on less publicized items in our lawmakers’ hands.
- The Equal Rights Amendment’s (ERA’s) 100-year journey to become law has been snagged since 2020 on a technicality regarding its 3/4 states’ ratification, after a deadline written into the preamble in 1972 expired in 1992 before the last three of 38 states signed on.
The fight for equal rights first earned women the right to vote, then compete in sports, enroll in medical and law schools, enlist in active military duty and run for political office. In 2022, it boils down to women receiving equal pay for doing the same job as a man.
Biden nullified the deadline after Trump reinforced it but the national archivist David Ferriero (a non-elected civil servant appointed by Obama) declined to write the amendment into law. Ferriero retired April 30. Thus, the 28th Amendment has passed every qualification including ratification, but is still not law.
Women today still make less than men doing equal work: 84 cents to a dollar.
- President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, still failed, earmarks nearly $100 billion to fund high-quality, affordable, universal childcare services targeted at children from 1-5, as well as child tax credits to help eligible parents pay for them.
Parents desperately need assistance with childcare costs because decent care is just not affordable. Case in point: costs for center-based programs rose 41% during the pandemic, according to a recent LendingTree report.
Despite the fact that other rich countries contribute an average of $14,000 per year for a toddler’s care, parents in the US only receive an average of $500 – way below the actual cost of care.
- The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, introduced by Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D-IL) was signed into law by President Biden last November. It directs multiple government agency efforts to improve maternal health, particularly for racial and ethnic groups that are starkly at-risk giving birth.
Black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes while 60 percent of all maternal deaths in the U.S. are preventable.
Yes, it is a historic “win” of $6.156 billion. But with no new funding unless bipartisan counter proposals, intended to patch up sections of Build Back Better’s failed agenda, start passing in both houses.
WINS FOR MOMS
- The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act sailed through both the House (May 2021) and Senate (last August). The bipartisan measure requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women so they can better continue working — a stool to sit on or a better-fitting uniform. A small victory in the books.
- A new provision in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 took effect April 1, 2022. It ensures maternity benefits provided by health insurers include coverage extending for 12 months of postpartum care, meeting the recommendations of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Another important win, especially when we are the richest country with the highest rate of pregnancy-related births and rising. At least 10 million mothers are suffering from “mommy burnout” and the leading cause of women’s death the first week to first year after delivery is cardiomyopathy (a weakened heart muscle).
A strong first-year-of-life experience is arguably the most crucial gift American society can give a new citizen and its new mom. The health of our country really hinges on it and we can and should do way, way better.