For a nation that has so many people screaming about the sanctity of motherhood and the absolute moral requirement (in their eyes) for every single zygote to be carried to term, we seem to have an aversion to making that sanctity survivable or the early care of that former zygote possible.
On one hand, we have the dearth of income and employment assurance for new mothers and mothers-to-be. Only 12 % of workers in the United States have paid family leave from their employers, and less than 40% have employer-provided paid medical leave. There is NO nationally mandated maternity leave here in the US; the closest we get is the Family and Medical Leave Act, and even that is subject to stipulations, limits, and restrictions. Even if your case threads the rapids of those barriers, the paid leave time still maxes out at only 12 weeks, which makes it the shortest in the First World and one of the shortest in the world as a whole – barring such bastions of women’s rights as Egypt. That means that, in an economy that virtually requires two household incomes for survivability in anything more than a shack down by the river, new mothers are removed from the care of their children when those children need them most by the exigencies of family finances. That is assuming that their employer hasn’t terminated them (for a completely unrelated cause, of course!) in the meantime; right-to-work-state employers are particularly bad about this, needing no justification under the exceedingly misnamed legislation.
On the other hand, we have massive amounts of money and effort being poured into assaults on Roe v. Wade and other aspects of a woman’s right to choose if and when she will be a mother. Texas state senator Dan Patrick said, “Look, this is a myth that Planned Parenthood has anything to do with women’s health,” as well as “I don’t care if every Planned Parenthood clinic in America goes out of business. In fact, that would be a great goal. More babies would live and women would get great health care from doctors who actually care about them.” This is from a man who (along with his party) wholeheartedly supported legislation that has made it impossible for clinics focused on women’s care to stay open in his state, and has undermined at every turn the access to that care that low-income women need desperately. This means that there will be more problem pregnancies and more children lost to preventable prenatal issues, not to mention more women dying from complications of pregnancy or botched back-alley abortions. Combine this with the effort across the nation from conservatives to criminalize miscarriages if a prosecutor decides, in his or her massive medical expertise, that it resulted from dangerous behavior, and you have the makings of a train wreck aimed directly on the most vulnerable of our citizens, mother and child alike.
This is, frankly, a travesty. Motherhood should be joyous; it should be entered into with planning and purpose; it should never be a punishment for “not keeping your legs together.” As Mother’s Day approaches, we should be working to make the process easier and more rational, not undermining its virtue by treating it as a mandate or a sentence of servitude. ALL mothers should be honored, not just on Mother’s Day, but all the time.
Here’s a radical thought: instead of just giving flowers and candy once a year and lip service the rest of the time, why not actually ACT to support mothers, as well as making it possible for them to universally choose when and if they will become one? It’s the hardest job in the world; let’s make sure that they’re ready and have the needed resources. It’s the least we can do.
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