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Most Americans want paid family leave

Most Americans want paid family leave
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The United States is currently the only country in the industrialized world that doesn’t guarantee some sort of paid family leave for its hard-working citizens to care for the newly born or the recently sick. And Americans are starting to wonder why. 

In partnership with Barna Group, we conducted a poll to see where Americans stand on the issue of paid family leave. The results were decisive: 47 percent of American adults said that employers should be required to provide paid family leave in all circumstances and another 46 percent supported it in some circumstances. Across the board, a majority of both Republicans and Democrats said that paid family leave should be available for employees to care for sick family members, recover from a pregnancy, tend to their newly born or adopted children and even take care of their own medical issues. 

Based on our data, the time may finally be right for paid family leave in America. And without question, conservatives and Christians have good reason to fight for it. That’s because paid family leave isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a pro-family, pro-birth and pro-life issue. 

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Since 1993, the Family Medical Leave Act has guaranteed unpaid time off for all qualified Americans to care for their children after giving birth. That means no one must risk losing their job in order to give the time they need to grow and steward their families. By some estimates, that extra time to raise up and nourish our children has reduced infant mortality in the United States by 10 percent. When we give Americans the time to do good for their families, we both improve and save lives.

But for many American fathers, mothers and caretakers, taking unpaid time off is a huge financial risk. They simply can’t afford to go without pay for weeks at a time and still provide for their families. 

That leaves Americans stuck between a rock and a hard place. They desperately want to give time to care for their families but they can’t pay the price for it. 20 percent of new mothers in the U.S. return to work just two weeks after giving birth. Even so, returning to work doesn’t solve their financial problems. Full-time childcare in the U.S. now costs an average of $16,000 per year. In many states, that’s more than the cost of one year of tuition at a public university. 

The Bible teaches that we should cherish, respect and sacrifice for our families. And we read in Psalm 127: 3-5 that "children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him."  But for many Americans, the extreme financial pressures they face today are hurting their ability to receive children with joy. 

Paid family leave could make a big difference. Almost half of all women who get abortions live below the federal poverty line, and 38 percent of American mothers who choose not to have children say it’s because they lack paid family leave. Guaranteed financial support for families could make the difference between a life aborted and a life welcomed into the world with love. And for families that do accept God’s gift of new children, paid family leave would give the resources to dedicate time to breastfeeding, educating and nurturing their newborns, something which studies show is essential to raising up healthy, happy and well-adjusted children. 

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In the past, conservatives and Christians have rightly worried that a federal guarantee of paid family leave would simply create another unfunded entitlement program or a burdensome mandate on the small businesses that employ the majority of Americans resulting in lower wages and fewer jobs. America’s history abounds with examples of well-meaning policies that ultimately overextend and artificially inflate the federal government’s power to control our daily lives.

But these worries, while valid, should inform our efforts to advocate for and craft a policy for paid family leave, rather than keep us from seeking such a policy at all. We know how impactful family leave can be on the lives of millions of Americans. When President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE extended the Family Medical Leave Act at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it was precisely because Americans needed that kind of limited federal action to weather the storm we were facing. 

Progressives and liberal democrats may want paid family leave as part of a huge expansion of government power or job-killing employer mandates, but conservatives and Christians can do better. Given the benefits to American families that paid family leave could bring, we should not shy away from that fight.

Timothy Head is executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.