For National Women’s Health Week, we are highlighting women’s health issues in the United States.
Yesterday, as you may or may not have gathered from your mom’s passive aggressive email this morning (subject: “How was ur weekend honey?”), was Mother’s Day. And there’s no better country than the good ol’ USA to celebrate women who have produced you and me and everyone we know, because we pride ourselves on treating them with all the love, care, and respect that they deserve. Just kidding! For starters, we’re one of two countries in the entire world that don’t offer paid maternity leave. (The other is Papua New Guinea.)
If this is no big deal to you, consider this: If you’re a woman without enough of a financial cushion to take off weeks of unpaid leave — like, for example, young single moms — you’re pretty much just fucked. You’re forced to go back to work without having recuperated from the physical ordeal that is pushing a seven-pound human out of your body, and you also have to negotiate the terrible stress of trying to figure out who is going to take care of the tiny, helpless puddle of a person that’s now in your life.
John Oliver, ever on the money, took down politicians that have voted against policies that would support paid leave for new mothers all while hollowly declaring how much they love their own: “You can’t have it both ways: You can’t go on and on about how much you love mothers and then fail to support legislation that makes life easier for them.”
Why on earth do people oppose paid maternity leave? For starters, there’s an insane and false idea that paying women while they’re caring for infants (and, god forbid, themselves) is bad for business. (It’s actually proven to keep women from leaving the workforce.) And also, as Oliver points out, “Any legislation that specifically seeks to support women often faces vocal opposition.” (Too real, John.)
Another “I love you, Mom” pick-me-up for you: While the rate of maternal deaths has decreased in countries around the world — like India, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh — it’s actually increased in the United States over the past 25 years. Quartz reports:
Each year, around 1,200 American mothers die in childbirth—meaning about 28 mothers die for every 100,000 live births. That’s an alarming increase from mere decades ago. In fact, between 1990 and 2013, the US’s maternal mortality rate surged 136%.
The primary reason for this increase, according to Quartz, is that American women’s health is worse than it used to be, with more and more incidences of obesity and high blood pressure.
So, for every bad child’s least favorite holiday, Mother’s Day Hangover Day, don’t send your mom a dumb belated bouquet — support politicians who are going to ensure that future moms have it easier than she did.