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Having babies. Over 80% of U.S. women have babies by the time they’re 44 years old, and three-quarters of moms are now in the labor force, but our family economic security policies are still stuck in the dark ages.

That’s right: Even though 177 other countries have some form of paid family leave for new moms after the birth of a child, the U.S. doesn’t. It’s no wonder that having a baby is now a leading cause of poverty spells in our nation—which is a time when income dips below what’s needed for food and rent.

But while millions of women struggle after the birth of a new child, a few highly paid women are stepping back from taking leave after the birth of a new child at all--and sparks are flying.

The recent announcement of Marissa Mayer, the new chief of Yahoo, that her maternity leave would be “a few weeks long, and she’ll work throughout it,” ignited a firestorm of feedback. For one thing, not all women have the same choices and options for childcare as a millionaire CEO. For another thing, Marissa Mayer's comment flew into the face of a long fight in the women’s movement for everyone to have access to paid family leave, which is a policy proven to decrease poverty, save taxpayers and businesses funds, and to help build healthy families.

In this show, we talk about this controversy together with policy experts, celebrities, advocates, and also with real moms who’ve been able to take family leave, as well as with real moms who’ve needed family leave but couldn’t take it.

*Spectacular special guests include: Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP; Christy Turlington Burns, supermodel and founder of Every Mother Counts; Debra Ness, National Partnership for Women & Families; Marilyn P. Watkins, Economic Opportunity Institute; Selena Allen Hansen, mom; as well as Monifa Bandele, Elisa Batista, and Ruth Martin of MomsRising.

Scroll down to find some highlights from the Maternity Leave Matters show, which I hope will inspire everyone to listen to the program in its entirety.  There was so much great content and conversation, it couldn't all fit in one blog post here!

***LISTEN to the show here:

Debra Ness, President, National Partnership for Women and Families

On pregnancy discrimination (At 3:11 on iTunes

“There are just so many women today who are frightened by the fact that their employer might find out about their pregnancy because they know that could mean the end of their job and I just think your listeners should know that even in that simple arena of pregnancy discrimination, we still have a lot of work to do, because pregnancy discrimination claims are still going up, not down.”

On Marissa Mayer, new CEO of Yahoo! (At 3:39 on iTunes

“I first want to applaud that we have a women CEO; and there are only 19 in the Fortune 500 companies, women CEOs, who is pregnant, and hopefully Yahoo will set an example of how to be a good employer and have good policies for women when they are pregnant. What Marissa chooses to do during her pregnancy leave, how long she takes, whether she works or not; those are issues that I think of as personal choice issues…The real thing we can’t lose sight of is the fact that millions of women, most women in this country, don’t have a choice.”

On who gets family leave (At 7:03 on iTunes

“The vast majority of folks who don’t have it are the folks who are your middle class, your working class, your low-wage workers, folks who are in everyday jobs, barely making ends meet, and they are the very folks who need it the most. They are the folks for whom when they don’t have any workplace flexibility, and they don’t have any time off, often have to sacrifice their job all together….A quarter of all poverty spells in this country begin with the birth of a child, and that’s really a tragedy. What does it say about us as a nation?”

Ben Jealous, President and CEO, NAACP

On our work-centered society (At 31:23on iTunes

“In our society there’s a really a stigma when it comes to anything that keeps you away from work. The reality is that our laws for centuries have really put workforce first and family last… When you look at us compared to other great powers in this world, especially in the west, we just fall way behind.”

On why the NAACP has taken up Paid Family Leave (At 33:29on iTunes

“We are made up primarily of working people, of working families, and you know, from the days of the drive-up to Brown v. Board, and we have really been focused on creating opportunity for all of our children. The reality is that, you know, children whose parents are fully empowered to care for them, fare better in our society."

On the price we pay as a society that does not have Paid Family Leave (At 38:19 on iTunes

“We as a society pay a price at the family level, but even when our families can afford it our our workplace supports it, our society is paying a very dear price because we as a country are having fewer and fewer children in part because we’re just not as supportive of families in reality as we are rhetorically.”

Christy Turlington, Supermodel and Founder of Every Mother Counts

On maternal death in the United States (At 45:05 on iTunes

“In the U.S. there’s about two women that die per day. Half of those deaths can be prevented.”

On the importance of women having access to paid family leave in the United States:

"We want happy, healthy families. The best way to do that is to support women before, during, and after their pregnancies. Postpartum hemorrhage, for example, typically happens after delivery and sometimes that’s an hour or two and sometimes that’s days after."

On disparities in US maternal death (At 46:28 on iTunes

“African American women in the United States are four times more likely to die in childbirth, and twice as likely as Latinos to die in childbirth.”

On why she loves being a mom (At 49:45 on iTunes

“The thing that I love the most about being a mom has really been how much I continue to learn about people and about myself, and my kids are daily teaching me. They’re just so present and so attentive and they really notice everything. I think as we get older, we tend to lose that sensitivity and that awareness. I try to see the world as best I can through their eyes. As an adult, I have responsibility to use my life and my voice in a way that will ultimately, I think, make the world that they grow up in a better place.”

*LISTEN to the entire show here:

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