Family and Medical Leave Act a Step Toward Reproductive Justice, But Still Leaves Many Behind
This article was cross-posted with permission from the Center for American Progress.
The Family and Medical Leave Act was signed into law 20 years ago today and was a great first step toward supporting workers and workplace fairness. The law ensures that employees can receive 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave to recover from a serious medical condition, provide care for a seriously ill family member, or care for a new child. Workplace leave, however, is not just an employment issue — it is also a matter of reproductive justice.
Reproductive justice stands at the intersection of traditional reproductive rights concerns, such as the decision whether to become a parent, and social justice issues. In addition, it centers on the reproductive health needs of the most marginalized populations, including women of color, low-income individuals, and individuals with disabilities, among others. In our 2006 report, "More than a Choice: A Progressive Vision for Reproductive Health and Rights," we set forth four cornerstones essential to a progressive reproductive health, rights, and justice agenda, including policies that support the ability to become a parent and to parent with dignity — meaning being able to financially, emotionally, and physically support a child’s basic needs — and the ability to have healthy and safe families and relationships.
Workplace leave is crucial for all people, but especially for low-income individuals seeking to become parents and have healthy families — a right to which we are all entitled. Historically, though, some parenting has been privileged at the expense of others, and not everyone has been able to exercise this right.