In a vibrant display of unity and progress, maternal and child health advocates gathered beneath the bright billboards of Times Square in New York to celebrate a momentous event - the passage of the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. These new laws signify a significant stride towards enhanced health and economic security for millions of women and families across the nation.
The event brought together a diverse range of voices to shed light on the importance of these legislative victories. Notable figures in attendance included The Honorable Carolyn Maloney, Jessica Lee from The Center for Worklife Law, Nikia Sankofa representing the United States Breastfeeding Committee, Dina Bakst of A Better Balance, Tina Sherman of MomsRising, and Stacy Davis from the National WIC Association, among others.
Why Celebrate These Victories?
The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act ensures that an additional nine million women have the right to take breaks as needed and access private spaces in the workplace to express breast milk. This law not only safeguards the well-being of nursing mothers but also empowers all women covered under its provisions with the ability to take legal action against non-compliant employers.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act mandates that employers with at least 15 employees provide "reasonable accommodations" to pregnant employees and those recovering from childbirth. Such accommodations include light-duty work, recovery leave, and lactation support. This act represents a crucial step towards dismantling barriers that have long hindered pregnant individuals from receiving the support they need in the workplace.
In an era where women are returning to the workforce in record numbers, these new laws offer a glimmer of hope for both maternal and child health. August being National Breastfeeding Month, the timing of these legislative triumphs is especially poignant. They have the potential to extend the duration of breastfeeding, a practice that numerous medical associations recommend for its manifold health benefits to both mothers and infants.
The passage of these laws signifies a turning point in workplace rights. Women should never have to choose between their health and their paycheck, or between motherhood and their career. They pave the way for a future where these choices become a thing of the past.
The Fight Is Far from Over
While celebrating these milestones is essential, the journey towards gender equality and comprehensive maternal care is far from over. The United States is still grappling with a maternal health crisis, particularly affecting women of color. Advocates emphasize the significance of programs like WIC that provide essential support to pregnant and postpartum women.
Stacy Davis, NWA’s Director of the Center of Innovative Practices in WIC, highlighted the importance of continued efforts to ensure health equity for women and families nationwide: “These two laws are steps in the right direction to getting it right in a big way, but it’s important that we do not rest on our laurels. The United States is in the throes of a maternal health crisis. For many women, particularly women of color, pregnancy and childbirth in this country can be a very dangerous proposition, and postpartum care, if available at all, can be lacking. So today, we rightly celebrate the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act and Pregnant Women Fairness Act. But tomorrow, we need to get back to work, roll up our sleeves, and continue to fight for women and children in every corner of this country.”
Even still, the Times Square event stands as a beacon of hope and progress. The collaborative efforts of advocacy organizations, legislative champions, and individuals have culminated in legislative victories that will undoubtedly transform the lives of countless women and families. This event is not merely a momentary event; it's a testament to the ongoing fight for gender equality, workplace fairness, and maternal well-being.