With just two days shy of President Trump's first 100 days in office, the man who campaigned on "so much winning" is desperate to pass major legislation — or, any piece of legislation — at this point. Trump and the GOP had already suffered a significant blow when their first attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as "Obamacare," was pulled without ever coming to a full vote outside of committee. Critics on both sides of the aisle pointed out the awfulness of the American Health Care Act, especially in how it specifically targeted women's health care, taking aim at maternity and breastfeeding benefits. Since the AHCA failed the first time around, will the new AHCA keep Obamacare's breastfeeding protections?
Breastfeeding protections from Obamacare were never included in the original AHCA. Let’s back up for a second, because it’s important to understand how workplace protections for nursing mothers became law. Under the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” provision, employers must provide private spaces for employees to express breast milk while at work, and to allow these employees to take “reasonable” break times to pump or nurse without facing penalty.
These breastfeeding protections fall under the Fair Labor Standards Act, but as an amendment to Obamacare. So when the ACA became law, so did the amendment that added workplace breastfeeding protections to the FLSA. Still with me? Because here’s what happens to these protections if Trumpcare were to become law.
"Repeal and replace Obamacare" has practically become the war cry of the Republican Party, with Trump chest-thumping the call up and down the campaign trail last year. Even though the GOP had eight years to come up with something better, they blew it on their first draft of the AHCA. But this is the really important part of their "plan," if you can really call it that after their first round fiasco: The repeal part. Repealing the ACA means undoing all of it. The replacement includes the parts of the ACA that the GOP has cherry-picked to keep and some of those parts the GOP wants to keep will be heavily modified in order to get the bill to pass.
So when Republicans want to repeal the ACA, that means they're going to repeal workplace breastfeeding protections at the same time. And when it comes to replacement, those protections haven't been included in either the first draft of the AHCA that failed or the new AHCA amendment introduced on Tuesday. So, what does all of this mean if Trumpcare takes away breastfeeding workplace protections? Without federal protection, everything falls back to the states.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 21 states have breastfeeding workplace protection laws, as does the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico — which means less than half of the entire United States have laws to protect nursing parents at work. If you live in one of these 23 places in the country, you might not feel the impact of losing the federal breastfeeding protections provision.
But for many, many more nursing moms, the act of expressing breast milk — to feed a child, let's not forget — could very well be relegated to dirty, disgusting bathrooms at work once more.