Why Paid Leave Could Pass in Obama's Second Term: Americans Want It

It's widely known that the U.S. is way out of step with the rest of the world in not having paid maternity leave. We are now one of only three nations—rich and poor - that don't guarantee job-protected time off with some amount of income after the birth of a child.

It's less widely understood just how globally out of whack we are. To get a sense, consider the countries we trail in terms of laws that support women's ability to physically recover from birth and bond with a child: Afghanistan, which has a 26 percent literacy rate and 9 million people living on less than one dollar a day, yet still manages to provide new mothers with 12 weeks off with pay; Djibouti, an African nation plagued by civil war and drought that is home to many nomadic herders and still manages to guarantee 14 weeks of paid maternity leave; and the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the poorest nations in the world—if not the very poorest—which nevertheless offers mothers 15 weeks off with full pay.

What's still unknown at this point is whether the U.S. is closer to joining the rest of the world in providing this basic human decency now that Obama has won a second term. Advocates are gearing up to finally get leave laws passed. And they have reason to be optimistic.

While Republican lawmakers, many of whom seem to reflexively oppose any legislation that appears to take the side of human need over that of business, still control the House of Representatives, Obama won the presidency handily, and Democrats are still in control of the Senate. Perhaps most important, voters from both parties want family and medical leave.