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Advocates rally in Harrisburg for bill that provides up to 20 weeks of paid family leave

A mother sits in a hospital bed while a nurse puts a box containing her baby on the bed.
Matt Rourke

Advocates held a rally in Harrisburg on Monday in support of the Family Care Act — a bill which, if passed, would provide up to 20 weeks of paid leave for Pennsylvanians through a payroll tax credit.

Proponents of the bipartisan legislation say giving people time to recover from an illness, bond with a new child or care for a sick family member makes financial sense as it provides economic stability to Pennsylvanians as they navigate some of life’s biggest changes and challenges.

Dr. Amaka Nnamani of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics spoke at the rally and said there are also health benefits that come with paid leave, explaining that it can help reduce the maternal mortality rate by allowing new moms to recover after giving birth.

“More than half of pregnancy-related deaths occur within one year after delivery. The leading causes of these deaths? Well, they include mental health conditions and related deaths to suicide and overdose, excessive bleeding, and cardiac and coronary conditions,” said Nnamani, who added that Black women are three times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause, compared to white women.

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Kalif Troy, an advocate for the Maternity Care Coalition in Philadelphia, said this legislation is not just for moms. He recalled having to go back to work right after his now 12-year-old daughter was born, even though his partner had a challenging labor and delivery.

“Access to paid family leave means that dads can be present for those first milestone moments. They can be involved in understanding and supporting their baby’s development,” said Troy. “And they can support their parent-partner as they recover from childbirth.”

Opponents of the Family Care Act say the legislation forces a one-size-fits-all solution onto Pennsylvania businesses, which each have their own unique needs and challenges.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio. As a contributor to the NPR-Kaiser Health News Member Station Reporting Project on Health Care in the States, Sarah's print and audio reporting frequently appears on NPR and KFF Health News.