The last time we checked in on the fate of paid family and medical leave in the Biden administration’s Build Back Better legislation, Senator Joe Manchin (D-Hell) didn’t support a meager four weeks of it, and so it was out of the Senate version of the bill. Days later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said four weeks was back in the House bill. One month of paid leave, you’ll note, is one-third of the 12 weeks of leave that President Joe Biden wanted.
During this period of cursed jockeying, you may have seen people sharing post-birth stories of how they weren’t wiping their raw vaginas with toilet paper but rather rinsing them with a squirt bottle, stuffing ice packs into their hospital-issued mesh underwear, still bleeding weeks later, or unable to drive a car post C-section, all while getting comically small amounts of sleep because they were trying to keep a newborn alive. Others noted that daycares wouldn’t even accept their babies until eight weeks. Even Meghan Markle wrote an open letter to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urging them to keep paid leave in the bill.
The United States is one of just six countries in the world—and the only rich country—not to guarantee paid leave. According to the New York Times, the average paid maternity leave globally is 29 weeks, and the average paid paternity leave is 16 weeks. Here, people are left to the mercies of their employers’ policies.
Now a group called the “Chamber of Mothers” is rallying people to fight for paid leave, and evoking some of the raw realities of birth. “As we talk about how we can’t #buildbackbleeding, we want to remind folks that real, bleeding, birthing bodies are what’s at stake,” they wrote on Instagram. The group is asking people to contact their Senators to urge them to include paid leave in the final bill and share the campaign on Instagram.
This noble effort does leave a few things to be desired—namely, the inclusion of transgender and non-binary birthing people in its messaging and a clearer, loftier goal. The action form they’re directing supporters to fill out simply asks Senators to include paid family and medical leave of any length in the bill. The form notes that paid leave is back in after outcry and that more people need to speak out to help it stay in. But if these groups are mobilizing folks, why not have them demand that Biden’s initial ask of 12 weeks get included, rather than acquiesce to Manchin’s demands? Because he belongs in hell, Manchin could counter four weeks with two, so why bend to his whims at all?
Of course, any paid family leave is better than none, so we say, godspeed, Chamber of Mothers, we hope the people are listening.