There’s Nothing America Won’t Do for Mothers—Except Give Them Paid Maternity Leave

John Oliver reminds everyone that the U.S. is one of just two countries that do not provide cash benefits for moms.
May 11, 2015·
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

Mother’s Day is a beloved American tradition, which means it’s also been co-opted by big brands looking to make a buck by marketing everything from ice-cream cones to baseball games. Even Hooters got in on the action with a commercial urging sons to take their mothers out for hot wings.

“What better way to honor the woman who gave you life than taking her to Hooters?” John Oliver said in his opening monologue on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight. “In America, there’s nothing we won’t do for moms,” Oliver pointed out—except, of course, give them basic health care benefits like paid maternity leave.

The United States and Papua New Guinea are the only two countries that do not provide cash benefits to women during maternity leave out of the 185 countries with information available, according to a 2014 report from the International Labour Organization.

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“Mothers shouldn’t have to stitch together time to recover from childbirth the same way that we plan four-day weekends in Atlantic City,” Oliver said, referring to the way some parents have taken to swapping their paid sick or vacation time for maternity leave. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, most workers in the U.S. are entitled to 12 weeks of parental leave, but employers aren’t required to pay for it.

It’s become a key political issue in the months leading up to election season. In his State of the Union speech in January, President Obama pushed Congress to provide federal employees at least six weeks of paid maternity leave and give all American workers up to seven paid sick days annually.

In a campaign video released this past Sunday, Hillary Clinton called it “outrageous” that America is the only country in the developed world without guaranteed paid leave. “At a time that should be so exciting and joyful, I see so many women just distraught,” she said. “They have to immediately go back to work.”