Bereavement and Parental Leave after Abortion

POLITICS & POLICY
Supporters of Planned Parenthood rally outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Detroit, February 11, 2017. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

City councils in Portland, Ore., and Boston have recently launched new policies permitting city employees to take paid leave after having an abortion.

In Boston, the city council amended its paid parental leave policy to include employees suffering from “pregnancy loss.” This might sound as though the policy applies to parents who lost a child after a stillbirth or miscarriage. But in fact the policy also includes parents who “experience . . . a termination” — in other words, those who have had an abortion.

Whether or not one supports abortion, it’s rather bizarre to extend parental leave to individuals or couples who chose abortion expressly so as to avoid being parents.

Portland’s City Council did much the same thing last year, amending its bereavement-leave policy to allow city employees to take paid time off after pregnancy loss, including abortion.

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“It’s important to recognize that employees need time to address their reproductive health needs . . . and they may need time to process what they’re experiencing,” Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, told Oregon Public News. Miller called the policy “a really important step forward,” adding that it could help “destigmatize” abortion.

While it is certainly true that many women experience negative physical and mental consequences following an abortion procedure, this policy is discordant coming from those who support abortion. If we are to acknowledge that a mother and father are bereaved after an abortion, presumably something — indeed, someone — has been lost. And if we acknowledge that in every abortion someone is lost — intentionally done away with — then it makes little sense to “destigmatize” the procedure and extend bereavement leave to those who have intentionally chosen to do away with their child.

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