Hope it breaks taboo, says New Zealand lawmaker behind miscarriage bereavement leave law

New DelhiWritten By: Aditi BhardwajUpdated: Mar 29, 2021, 04:52 PM IST


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Ginny Andersen, MP for Hutt South introduced this bill after hearing the ordeal of a woman who had suffered a miscarriage but was unable to access bereavement leaves. 

New Zealand has passed a legislation giving working mothers and their partners the right to paid leave after suffering a miscarriage or stillbirth. The bill, which also includes people who were planning to have a child through surrogacy, was unanimously passed in parliament on March 24.

Ginny Andersen, member of parliament for Hutt South, introduced this bill after hearing the ordeal of a woman who had suffered a miscarriage but was unable to access bereavement leaves.

"The woman felt it's unfair and approached a local member of parliament after which the idea came to me and I drafted the bill. When I spoke over it, many people supported it. There was a need here," Andersen told WION. 

Drawn through a lottery system in the parliament in 2018, this bill has garnered enormous positive response locally and internationally. With this, New Zealand has become the second country in the world to have such law, after India. 

In India, women are entitled to six weeks of paid leave in case of miscarriage under the Maternity Benefit Act 1961. Moreover, there is no prescribed time period after which it is provided, and excludes the partners of the mourning mothers. 

Talking about the importance of this bill, Andersen in the Parliament had said that one in four New Zealand women have had a miscarriage. She told WION that this will help in destigmatising miscarriages.  

"In New Zealand, women don't talk about their pregnancy till the third month, as there are high chances of miscarriage in those initial days. It is just like an unspoken rule amongst women. So, I think this bill might bring some change, enable women to talk about it and break these taboos," the Hutt South MP said.

The leave provisions apply to mothers, their partners as well as parents planning to have a child through adoption or surrogacy, but excludes abortions.

On whether abortion was considered to be included, Andersen said, "This issue had come up. New Zealand has removed abortion from the crime list and there is a huge debate about it. I was quite clear to not steer my bill into that hot debate. There was a clear need for women and their partners to have bereavement leave for miscarriage, and I was focused to deliver that."

However, she stated that if any other MP would like to take a member vote on including abortion under the bill, then it would be a great idea.