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New Zealand Approves Paid Leave After A Miscarriage

New Zealand's Parliament has approved a bill providing paid leave after a miscarriage or stillbirth. "The bill will give women and their partners time to come to terms with their loss without having to tap into sick leave," said member of Parliament Ginny Andersen, seen here last year.
Image credit: Hagen Hopkins

New Zealand’s Parliament has approved legislation that will provide three days of paid leave after a miscarriage or stillbirth, without needing to use sick leave.

“The bill will give women and their partners time to come to terms with their loss without having to tap into sick leave,” said member of Parliament Ginny Andersen, according to Reuters. “Because their grief is not a sickness, it is a loss. And loss takes time.”

Andersen, a member of the ruling Labour Party, initiated the bill. She said that one in four women in New Zealand have had a miscarriage.

A year ago, New Zealand decriminalized abortion, allowing the procedure up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy, changing a law that had been in place since 1977.

“The passing of this bill shows that once again New Zealand is leading the way for progressive and compassionate legislation, becoming only the second country in the world to provide leave for miscarriage and stillbirth,” Andersen said.

The other country that provides such leave is India, which allows women to take six weeks of leave after a miscarriage, CNN reports.

A miscarriage is defined as a pregnancy loss earlier than 20 weeks of gestation. Pregnancy loss after that point is called a stillbirth. About 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to the Mayo Clinic — most occurring before the 12th week of pregnancy. The CDC says that about 1 in 100 pregnancies at 20 weeks or later is affected by stillbirth.

Washington, D.C., recently expanded its bereavement leave for public employees who lose a child, including those mourning a stillborn baby, The Washington Post reported.

The move to change the city’s policy began with the situation of public school teacher Liz O’Donnell, who gave birth to a stillborn daughter in December. O’Donnell lost nearly a liter and a half of blood during 48 hours of labor, and the epidural aggravated pre-existing scar tissue, leaving her in constant pain.

“O’Donnell requested eight weeks for recovery through the city’s paid family leave program for government workers,” NPR member station WAMU reported. “But D.C. Public Schools told her the policy no longer applied to her because her baby had not survived.”

D.C.’s new policy offers two weeks of paid leave to city employees who lose a child under the age of 21, including stillbirths.

In New Zealand, some say the country’s new policy does not go far enough.

“You get three days’ paid leave, maybe you bury your baby or you have a service, and then you go back to work, and you carry on — and then what? That’s my concern,” pregnancy loss educator Vicki Culling told The New York Times.

“I’m celebrating it,” she said, “but I want to see us keeping this compassion going, and looking further into the needs of these parents.”

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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