By law, parents aren't protected in the United States. The country lacks universal paid leave that would make taking care of their families a lot easier. Also absent from federal law is legislation that would close the gender wage gap or provide strong workplace protections. There's also the lack of state laws protecting LGBTQ parents from discrimination. But there are also laws on the books that harm moms and dads in the United States. In fact, here are four laws that are putting American moms at risk.
These laws don't necessarily target parents, but they do have huge implications for families. Much like the American Health Care Act that is before our elected officials, these pieces of legislation impact aspects of a parent's life that make it even harder for them to survive. Whether it's being able to access an abortion or live in your truth without fear of violence, these four laws can harm a parent's physical, emotional, mental, and financial health.
The United States is far beyond other countries in protecting and supporting its parents. And with legislation like the American Health Care Act on the table, it's unlikely the current administration will work to change that tide.
The Hyde Amendment
Passed in 1976, the Hyde Amendment blocks Medicaid and other taxpayer-funded government insurance from being used for abortion services. The amendment is one of the very first efforts of anti-choice lawmakers to restrict abortion access after the United States Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. Parents enrolled in Medicaid who want and need an abortion have to shoulder the out-of-pocket costs for the procedure, which could run thousands of dollars. That amount not only includes the price of the abortion, but also the costs associated with living in a state that has severe restrictions on access. The 41-year-old law disproportionately hurts poor parents and parents of color because it forces them to carry either an unintended or nonviable pregnancy to term, putting both their health and financial stability at risk.
Anti-Abortion Laws Across the Country
Nearly all states limit abortion access in some form. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 288 abortion restrictions have been enacted between 2011 and 2015. And more than half of American women ages 15 to 44 live in a state categorized by Guttmacher as "hostile" or "extremely hostile" to abortion rights. All of these laws are a risk to a parent's health. When a person doesn't have access to safe and legal abortion, they are forced to carry a pregnancy to term that may kill them. (A six-month investigation by NPR and ProPublica found that American women are dying from pregnancy-related complications at a rate that is extraordinarily higher than any other developed country.) Or they may be forced to undergo an unsafe abortion that may kill them. (According to a 2009 paper published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, some 68,000 women die because of an unsafe abortion each year.)
Religious Freedom Restoration Laws
As of 2016, 21 states have enacted religious freedom laws that, in many cases, provide a legal vehicle for businesses to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people at work, in housing, and in public spaces. The LGBTQ population — and trans people of color in particular — have some of the highest rates of poverty and unemployment. Religious freedom laws that strip LGBTQ parents of their civil rights are laws that put their physical, mental, and financial health at risk. Not to mention, black trans women face the highest murder rates in the country, meaning that just existing as a black trans mother puts that mother's life at risk.
The Family And Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act is a catch-22 for parents. On the one hand, the FMLA is necessary legislation; under the federal law, employees have a right to 12 weeks of leave to take care of a new child, to tend to a sick loved one, or to recover from a serious health condition. But those 12 weeks are unpaid, which means workers who need time off — but cannot afford to take three months without pay — are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Some employees have access to paid leave, but that's only 11 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. When a parent takes leave without pay, they risk their economic security, which creates stress and harms their mental and physical health.
It's hard to believe that President Donald Trump and the current Congress will work to help parents across the country. In fact, the AHCA — aka Trumpcare — shows the exact opposite. So there's little hope that these laws will improve anytime in the future.