Bipartisan progress for women in 2016. Seriously.
In an election year, stories about our nation’s polarization abound, and much of the most divisive rhetoric involves religion. Politicians have proposed a religious litmus test for immigrants, the president has been called “divisive” for visiting a mosque, candidates jockey for support of Religious Right leaders, and Donald Trump has tried to start a flame war with the pope.
Against this backdrop, it might be surprising to see the faith community doing the hard work of finding common ground policies that make a real difference in the lives of American families. But that is exactly what’s happening. As chair of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood partnerships and the CEO of Faith in Public Life, I see religious leaders living out their values of justice, compassion and family every day.
For example, in Ohio this week a campaign by evangelicals, Catholics, mainline Protestants and Jewish leaders to end workplace discrimination against pregnant women reached a major milestone. With clergy and television cameras looking on, the state Senators introduced a bipartisan bill requiring businesses to grant pregnant workers temporary, reasonable accommodations that allow them work safely while carrying a child. It is co-sponsored by every woman member of the state Senate.
More than 100 religious leaders across the state have been speaking out on this issue since long before the legislation was even drafted. The driving force is a commitment to family and the dignity of work, and the conviction that no woman should have to choose between her job and her pregnancy.
The accommodations they seek are simple, temporary adjustments to a woman’s regular work that allow her to do her job while avoiding complications, premature birth, or worse. Things like relief from heavy lifting, the ability to go to the bathroom when needed, and permission to sit down a few minutes per hour.
Without these protections, many women face the real — and truly galling — position of having to choose between their paycheck and their health. Crossing your fingers and hoping everything turns out okay is not the way our country should ask women to make choices about their families. Morally, it is untenable. Economically, it makes no sense.
After all, three quarters of women who enter the workforce today will become pregnant. Forty percent of women are the breadwinners for their homes, and seventy percent contribute critically to their family’s financial stability.
This is a national issue, too. At least 14 other states are considering bills that would require some employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers. And the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act introduced last year with bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate would extend basic protection to the whole country.
With Ohio as a blueprint, we expect to see religious communities across the country work together to address issues that affect families’ health and economic security. This focus transcends ideology, and is driven by faith.