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Portland is the latest city to ensure bereavement leave for pregnancy loss—including abortions

The updated policy employees up to three days of paid leave if they have recently experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or pregnancy loss.

Portland is the latest city to ensure bereavement leave for pregnancy loss—including abortions
Image Source: FrankvandenBergh / Getty Images

In a progressive move, Portland, Oregon, has become the latest city to provide bereavement leave for those experiencing pregnancy loss. This benefit will be extended to include people who have undergone abortions. As per the city's amended bereavement leave policy, city employees will be permitted to take up to three days of paid leave if they have recently experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or any other form of pregnancy loss. In addition to this, the policy would apply to those who have received an abortion "irrespective of whether deemed medically necessary." The changes to the legislation were unanimously approved by the city council in October, CNBC reports.



 

Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst with the reproductive health research organization Guttmacher Institute, explained that paid bereavement leave that covers miscarriages and stillbirths is incredibly rare. A comprehensive policy that takes into account abortion is even more so. Notably, those making use of the policy do not need to disclose the specific form of pregnancy loss to their employer. Nash affirmed in an interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting, "This is just incredibly uncommon." Nonetheless, while such a progressive policy may be rare, the incidence rate of miscarriage, unfortunately, is not. According to estimates from the Kaiser Family Foundation, miscarriages occur in about 30 percent of all pregnancies—this makes the medical event "extremely common." For someone who has experienced a miscarriage, it could take several weeks for their body to recover fully from the loss. It could take even more time for them to recover mentally.



 

Portland City Council is now one of the first and few local governments in the United States—and indeed, across the world—to acknowledge the dire need for paid leave following pregnancy loss. "It’s incredibly exciting to see cities see this as an important way to support their workers," stated Laura Narefsky, an attorney who works on the education and workplace justice team at the National Women’s Law Center. The council first began the process of updating its bereavement leave policy last year. Senior policy advisor in Commissioner Mingus Mapps’ office Michelle Rodriguez wanted the updated policy to mirror similar legislation passed in New Zealand, which gives mothers and their partners three days paid bereavement leave following a miscarriage or stillbirth. She played a key role in developing and passing the new policy.



 

Rodriguez shared what it was like to work on the policy in an interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting. In one instance, a staffer divulged their experience of being a new employee who had yet to accrue any paid time off to utilize after she suffered a pregnancy loss. "She essentially took days without pay to deal with both her physical reaction to what ended up being a medical termination with her doctor’s help and the emotional and psychological impact of what happened," the senior policy advisor said. "I’m like, ‘OK, we need to figure out how to actually call this out and be proudly saying that this city wants to support families as they’re going through this process.'"



 

The policy thus sets an important precedent for passing nationwide legislation that ensures a standard of paid leave for new parents. In July this year, House Representative Ayanna Pressley and Senator Tammy Duckworth, both Democrats, introduced the Support Through Loss Act. If passed, the bill would mandate at least three days of paid leave for workers “to process and cope following a pregnancy loss, an unsuccessful assisted reproductive technology procedure, a failed adoption arrangement, a failed surrogacy arrangement, or a medical diagnosis or event that impacts pregnancy or fertility." It would also require federal agencies to develop and provide public information on pregnancy loss, its prevalence, and treatment options, as well as invest $45 million a year to the National Institutes of Health for federal research into miscarriage and pregnancy loss.



 

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