Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

MSNBC Anchor Katy Tur Slams 'Shameful' Lack Of Paid Family Leave

MSNBC anchor Katy Tur speaks onstage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, Day 3, on Oct. 11, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune)
MSNBC anchor Katy Tur speaks onstage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, Day 3, on Oct. 11, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

MSNBC’s Katy Tur blasts lack of federal paid family leave upon her return to work. She’s with us.

Guests

Katy Tur, NBC News correspondent and anchor on MSNBC. She is also a new mom, giving birth in April to a boy named Teddy. ( @KatyTurNBC)

Dr. Kimberly Montez, pediatrician practicing in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Interview Highlights

On returning to work after giving birth

Katy Tur: “When I read the stats that 25% of women go back to work before two weeks — and, there’s a large number that go back within 10 days or within a week — it made me want to break down and cry. I can’t imagine how difficult that would be. You need the baby, the baby needs you, your brain isn’t working. You’ve just gone through a traumatic — a joyful — but, a traumatic experience. I just can’t fathom it.”

Dr. Kimberly MontezAt the time I [had] — as many people have — the Family and Medical Leave Act. Which does allow 12 weeks of protected work, but it doesn’t provide pay. And, so, unfortunately for my family’s economic situation, I needed to return to work [one week after giving birth], especially given that one of the weeks of my leave was taken from me, being in the hospital prior to giving birth. And, I think many families similar to mine have to make these excruciating decisions. [These families] have to choose to unfortunately leave their child at the hospital, because of not being able to afford their family situation.”

On the high price of childbirth 

Tur: “It didn’t cost me a ton of money to give birth. I was afraid that it was going to cost 50-grand. I kept hearing, you know, we do news stories about how much it costs to have a baby in this country. But, it ended up not costing much at all, because the insurance [at NBC, through Comcast] was so good. But, again, I mean, this should not just be available to me. This should be available to everybody. It’s crazy that I’m among a privileged elite. [Paid family leave] should be a foundational thing that mothers and fathers get across this country. Because [if] we don’t have healthy families or healthy babies, you don’t have a healthy society.”

Responding to the argument against federal paid family leave 

Tur: “I’ve heard from some of those people on Twitter. Some of the people who say — and I’ve also met people who’ve had children on Twitter — who say, ‘I don’t want to have to pay for your kids. You shouldn’t ask everybody else to pay for something that should be your responsibility.’ There is that mentality in this country, that ‘what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is yours, and you pay for your own decisions.’ And I would counter that by saying, you’re going to be paying for it one way or the other down the line, through unstable families. Society benefits from having healthy, happy babies, healthy, happy, stable families. And, it might not be clear how you will pay for it later on. But, if the society isn’t working, if there’s more trips to the ER, if there’s a higher infant mortality rate, if there’s more of a problem with mental care in this country, you will be paying for it. Just in a different and indirect way.”

Montez: “Essentially what it boils down to is, virtually every working-person — whether they will become a mother or a father — they will need time away from their job, at some point, to care for either a new child, or to deal with serious personal family health issues. And that’s just the fact of the matter, that this will affect everybody. And Katy is right. The lack of paid leave has many additional economic consequences that are more long-term in nature. And, so, you know, studies have shown that low-income kids succeed academically if they have better childhood programs.

“There are a lot of claims that paid leave is harmful to businesses, or that it costs too much. But, there’s a lot of research out there on the existing state programs — of which there are eight currently — plus D.C., who have paid family leave programs. And, there’s a lot of research that it can benefit both the employees and the employer. So, for example, in California, 87% of companies reported no increased costs as a result of employees utilizing the state paid family leave and medical leave program. … There are lots of assets. Reducing employee turnover, increasing labor force participation, increasing companies’ ability to attract talented workers. So, I really think there are lots of economic benefits related to this. And, also for women — unfortunately the caregiving falls disproportionately on women — and the ability to find affordable child-care, or even get paid time off, it ends up holding back the professional advancement of many women. And it reduces not just family incomes, but, also, economic growth.”

From The Reading List

NBC News: “ Katy Tur after maternity leave: Lack of federal paid leave is ‘shameful’” — “MSNBC anchor Katy Tur returned to the air Wednesday after a five-month maternity leave, and she devoted her final segment of the day to calling out Congress for the “shameful” lack of federal paid family leave in America.

“Tur detailed her birth complications, which included an unplanned C-section, an infected incision and the overall challenges of adjusting to her new life.

“‘Nothing about this story is exceptional!’ Tur exclaimed in the segment. ‘Except for the fact that I got a lot more paid time off to figure it out than the majority of new moms in this country. And [my husband] Tony took more time than at least 70 percent of fathers out there. And that is insane.’

“While a small handful of states have enacted versions of a paid leave law, there is no federal American family leave. At best some workers qualify for 12 weeks of unpaid ‘job protection’ under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

“Paid maternity leave is guaranteed in every country except the United States and Papua New Guinea, according to a March report from the World Economic Forum.

“In an interview with Know Your Value, Tur said she had been thinking about devoting a segment to family leave on her first day back ‘for months, frankly, after giving birth. I started to realize how necessary my husband’s support was and how important the recovery was.’

“Tur had begun a Twitter discussion about the topic during her leave, and so many people weighed in passionately that she decided to discuss it on air.”

Winston-Salem Journal: “ Dr. Kimberly Montez: Paid family leave puts babies’ lives first” — “My daughter was born three months early – at 27 weeks of gestation. She had to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for 109 days. We visited her in the NICU twice a day — my husband went in the evenings after work, and I went before work every day. As a pediatrician, I was keenly aware of the importance of breastfeeding, reading, singing and talking to my daughter and holding her skin-to-skin. All of these things have immense developmental benefits for newborns, especially preterm infants, who are at higher risk of health problems. That was a scary time for our family, and as much as I wanted to spend all my time in the NICU, I couldn’t — because I had to keep going to work every day.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 12 weeks of paid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child. This recommendation is based on the vast amount of evidence demonstrating the health benefits to mothers, fathers, and babies (https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/FAMILYLeaveAct.aspx). However, even as a pediatrician, I was unable to take my own advice because I needed to work to pay off my loans.

“That’s because the United States is one of the only developed nations in the world that does not guarantee paid family leave. As a result, millions of women who have their babies here must go right back to work. In fact, nearly 12% return to their jobs within a week of giving birth, and one in four return within just 10 days! Those shameful statistics mean families are suffering and babies miss critical moments with their parents.”

HuffPost: “ Maybe The Debate Moderators Could Ask About Child Care, Like Just Once” — “Millions of Americans struggle to find decent, affordable child care every year. But when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tried to bring up the subject during Thursday’s Democratic debate, in response to a question about education, a moderator cut her off.

“‘Start with our babies by providing universal child care for every baby age 0 to 5, universal pre-K for every 3-year-old and 4-year-old in this country,’ Warren said, just getting on a roll when ABC moderator Linsey Davis interrupted. ‘Thank you, senator,’ Davis said.

“Davis was just following the rules: Warren’s time for the response had lapsed. But the moment was a perfect metaphor for the attention child care and other work-family issues have gotten in these debates ― or, more accurately, the attention they have not gotten in these debates.

“That seems like a problem.”

CNN Business: “ These countries offer the most generous maternity leave” — “The amount of maternity leave women are entitled to varies wildly around the world.

Laws in some European countries allow women to take dozens of weeks of paid leave. The United States doesn’t guarantee them any.

“The issue came back into the spotlight Friday when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she is expecting her first child.

“Under the country’s law, women can take as much as 18 weeks of paid maternity leave. Ardern says she will take six weeks off after her baby is born.

“New Zealand is expected to increase the paid leave entitlement to 22 weeks this year, which would move it higher up the rankings of the most generous policies in the developed world.”

Dorey Scheimer produced this show for broadcast.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.