Rally held for bill requiring paid leave after stillbirths

By Ledger Staff

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Photo: Office of Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar.

In an effort to pass legislation to add stillbirth as a qualifying event for Paid Family Leave, Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar and advocates gathered outside the New York State Capitol in Albany for a rally on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

If passed, parents would be entitled to 12 weeks of paid leave from work with employment protection in the case of a stillbirth.

The bill (A2880/S2175), introduced by Rajkumar this legislative session, has garnered bipartisan support, including from the bill’s State Senate sponsor Ted Kennedy.

“All women who give birth should have paid time off. Make no mistake: women who experienced a stillbirth gave birth, and their bodies went through the birthing process,” Rajkumar said. “Their babies were real. Though their precious babies did not survive the birth, their mothers did and their mothers’ bodies need the time to recover just like all women need after a pregnancy. The mother of a stillbirth child also needs the time to grieve the loss of her baby. These women deserve to be seen and to be included in the Paid Family Leave law of our state.”

Under current New York State law, families are entitled to paid leave following the birth of a child, but not in the case of a stillbirth — which is defined as the loss of a pregnancy on or after 20 weeks — despite the course of medical treatment being similar to a live birth.

PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy, a coalition of healthcare providers and allies committed to ending preventable stillbirths, joined Rajkumar at the Million Dollar Staircase in Albany to rally in support of the bill.

“My stillbirth was 18 years ago and I myself was at the mercy of my lawyers to make sure that I didn’t have to go back to work three days after my loss,” PUSH Pregnancy Co-Director of Awareness Marjorie Vail said in a statement. “Four families a day are approved for paid family leave, but when their child is born still they are denied, which is totally wrong. It is inhumane to ask women, and birthing partners, who have lost and buried a child to return to work in three days. She is not physically, mentally, emotionally, or socially ready to do anything but begin to heal.”

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