Boston Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and US Senator Tammy Duckworth recently introduced a new bill titled The Support Through Loss Act, which seeks to “raise awareness about pregnancy loss and establish new paid leave benefits for workers experiencing painful challenges while seeking to grow their family,” according to a recent press release.
The Support Through Loss Act would help those experiencing the challenges of starting a family by increasing support in the workforce, offering access to resources and patient-centered care. It also includes $45 million for research and a CDC initiative aimed at removing the stigma surrounding the struggle to build a family.
The Support Through Loss Act would:
- Invest $45 million annually to the National Institutes of Health for federal research into miscarriage and pregnancy loss.
- Require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to develop and disseminate public information regarding pregnancy loss, including information on the incidence and prevalence of pregnancy loss, as well as the range of treatment options for pregnancy loss and recurrent pregnancy loss.
- Ensure employers provide 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.
Why The Need
The grief associated with pregnancy loss, infertility, failed adoption, or failed IVF treatments is immense and can feel insurmountable. It can be especially overwhelming when there’s a lack of support or resources to help cope with the pain. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, early pregnancy loss occurs in about 10% of known pregnancies.
One of the biggest obstacles facing the Act is public perception and the stigma around pregnancy loss and fertility issues. “There is an overwhelming lack of awareness of how common miscarriage is — approximately one in four pregnancies will end in miscarriage,” says Dr. Lora Shahine, a double board-certified specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Pacific Northwest Fertility. “The majority of miscarriages happen in the first trimester, before women are ‘showing’. It’s emotionally challenging to share both a pregnancy announcement and news of miscarriage at the same time.”
Shahine goes on to say that there can be career implications and consequences to starting a family. “Employees can often feel worried about sharing with their employers that they are trying to get pregnant,” she says. In fact, pregnancy discrimination is rampant in the US, ranging from denying a promotion or pay raise to terminating an expectant mother before she can take maternity leave.
In fact, most companies don’t have to accommodate pregnant women at all under Federal law. Indeed, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is the only federal law aimed at protecting expecting mothers at work. Under this Act, a company has to accommodate pregnant workers’ requests only if it is already doing so for other employees who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.” Therefore, any organization that doesn’t offer breaks to its employees has no obligation to do so for pregnant staff.
“Pregnancy loss should be met with care, compassion, and support. It is a common experience, but many struggle in silence due to the lack of awareness and cultural stigma,” Congresswoman Pressley said in a statement. “Our bill sends a message to families that they are not alone, and would support those experiencing the loss of a pregnancy by providing them with the resources, workforce support and care necessary to recover and heal. I am grateful to Senator Duckworth and to our advocates for their close partnership on this long-overdue legislation.”
Shahine is dedicated to teaching, advocating for patient care, and shattering stigma around fertility and miscarriage. For many, The Support Through Loss Act may finally recognize the significance of their loss. “One of the encouraging things about the bill is that it gets people talking about miscarriage, sharing their experiences, and starting the healing process,” she says. “Infertility and miscarriage is no one’s fault; they can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, gender identity, education or socioeconomic class.”