Portland, Oregon has become the second city to allow public employees to take paid time off followin...
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Portland Has Approved Bereavement Leave For Employees Following Abortion

Portland, Oregon has become the second city to allow public employees to take paid time off following an abortion.

by Morgan Brinlee

Portland, Oregon is one of the first cities to allow public employees to take paid time off after having an abortion. The new policy comes as a result of the Portland City Council’s unanimous decision to approve changes to its bereavement leave policy earlier this month. It offers public employees up to three days of paid bereavement leave in instances of pregnancy loss, including miscarriage, stillbirth, termination, and loss incurred during fertility treatment.

According to OPB, Portland City Council members began looking to overhaul the city’s bereavement leave policy last summer after being informed that a number of employees didn’t feel represented or able to take leave under the old policy. Until it was recently amended, the policy allowed for paid leave only in situations where they were related to the deceased either biologically or through marriage.

Michelle Rodriguez, senior policy advisor for Commissioner Mingus Mapps, told OPB she was inspired by legislation recently passed in New Zealand, which NPR has reported guaranteed paid leave following miscarriage and stillbirth. However, Rodriguez expanded on New Zealand’s law to include instances of termination or abortion after public employees described using sick days or vacation time to handle the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of pregnancy loss.

“[One employee] 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,” Rodriguez told the news outlet. “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 city’s new bereavement policy allows for paid time off irrespective of whether termination of a pregnancy is deemed medically necessary. What’s more, those looking to take bereavement leave for pregnancy loss are not required to disclose the specific type of pregnancy loss they experienced when applying or arranging for leave.

As progressive as abortion advocates have said Portland’s new bereavement policy is, the city is actually not the first to establish paid leave for abortions. According to WESA, Pittsburgh City Council introduced bereavement legislation similar to Portland’s at the end of August and approved its passage in mid-September, roughly one month before Portland City Council approved theirs. Additionally, the Waterloo City Council in Iowa is also pursuing similar legislation, according to Councilmember Jonathan Grieder.

Pittsburgh’s amended bereavement policy guarantees city employees up to three days of paid leave following instances of miscarriage, stillbirth, termination, failed in vitro fertilization procedures, or surrogacy loss.

“It was time the City of Pittsburgh set an example — in southwest Pennsylvania, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and across this country — as a compassionate workplace for employees who have lost a pregnancy,” City Councilmember Bobby Wilson said of the legislation in a statement released earlier this month. “Such loss carries a heavy stigma because of how personal and how painful it can be. The least we can do is to provide paid leave so that our colleagues in these situations have the time and resources to grieve and heal without feeling pressured to put on a brave face and return to work.”