New Zealand Approves Landmark Bill That Grants Paid Leave to Mothers and Partners After a Miscarriage or Stillbirth

New Zealand Approves Landmark Bill That Grants Paid Leave to Mothers and Partners After a Miscarriage or Stillbirth

Ginny Andersen, the Labour MP who introduced the bill, is hoping other countries will follow suit.

Miscarriage is a different experience for every person. While some of the pain may be physical, there's no denying the emotional toll it can take on a person. The pain of loss can lead to disappointment, despair, shock, and grief. There's also a lot of stigma around miscarriages. “There is a taboo around women’s bodies, there is a taboo around women’s bleeding. People don’t want to know,” said Julia Bueno, a London-based psychotherapist and author of On the Brink of Being: Talking About Miscarriage. “It has taken a woefully long time for miscarriage to be taken seriously by the medical profession.” According to TODAY, Bueno noted, women in their desperation for an explanation will find reasons to blame themselves and tend to be hard on themselves. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t have had that cup of coffee.’ The void creates a strong pull to blame oneself.” A study suggested that 29 percent of women suffer from PTSD after a miscarriage. Around 24 percent have anxiety and 11 percent experience depression. “Women need to talk about the profound nature of our loss. Research is now backing up what we all know,” said Bueno. “Grief is the price of a love."


It's a heartbreaking process and people deserve time and space to heal. Now, some politicians are taking the emotional and mental health of employees into consideration while passing laws. Lawmakers in New Zealand unanimously approved legislation that will provide three days of paid leave after a miscarriage or stillbirth. Employees in the country will be given three days' paid bereavement leave without needing to use sick leave. "The bill will give women and their partners time to come to terms with their loss without having to tap into sick leave," said member of Parliament Ginny Andersen, according to Reuters. "Because their grief is not a sickness, it is a loss. And loss takes time."


Last year, the country also decriminalized abortion, allowing the procedure up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy, turning a law that has been around since 1977. "The passing of this bill shows that once again New Zealand is leading the way for progressive and compassionate legislation, becoming only the second country in the world to provide leave for miscarriage and stillbirth," Andersen said. The other country that provides such leave is India, where women can take six weeks of leave after a miscarriage, CNN reports. "I can only hope that while we may be one of the first, we will not be one of the last and that other countries will also begin to legislate for a compassionate and fair leave system that recognizes the pain and the grief that comes from miscarriage and stillbirth," Andersen said in parliament during the final reading of the bill.


The 46-year-old hopes that the new law would help remove the stigma that surrounds miscarriage. "I hope that this bill will go some way in allowing women to feel more comfortable about talking about miscarriage and that they feel comfortable reaching out for support and for help in what is a huge physical and emotional loss," Andersen told lawmakers. No other politician expressed dissent towards the bill. "Occasionally and not often enough, in my view, we come together as parliamentarians in a unified, dignified, respectful way to do the right thing," Scott Simpson, a member of the opposition, center-right National Party, said during the debate. "This is an example of such an occasion."


While this is a welcome move, some critics say that three days is just not enough. "You get three days' paid leave, maybe you bury your baby or you have a service, and then you go back to work, and you carry on — and then what? That's my concern," pregnancy loss educator Vicki Culling told The New York Times. "I'm celebrating it," she said, "but I want to see us keeping this compassion going, and looking further into the needs of these parents."







Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Hagen Hopkins

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