Last Updated on November 8, 2023 by BVN
Trigger warning: This article discusses reproductive loss.
Breanna Reeves |
Starting Jan. 1, 2024, employees will be allowed to take up to five days off following a reproductive loss event without any job repercussions under Senate Bill 848.
Authored by Sen. Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill in late October, a month recognized as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
Under SB 848, a reproductive loss event is defined as “the day or, for a multiple-day event, the final day of a failed adoption, failed surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth, or an unsuccessful assisted reproduction…” The bill does not state whether the reproductive loss leave is paid, but prevents employers from retaliating against employees who do take reproductive loss leave.
Yvonne McCombs believes this bill is a great start to recognizing and acknowledging the physical, mental and emotional impacts of reproductive loss on birthing people and their families. McCombs is a birth, bereavement and postpartum doula who has experienced reproductive loss herself and didn’t have the opportunity to take leave during her losses.
Recurrent pregnancy loss is the loss of two pregnancies in a row. About 1 in 100 pregnant people (1%) have repeat miscarriages, according to the March of Dimes.
“Because I experienced loss myself, my specialty is [reproductive loss]. Over a 10-year span, I endured eight losses. A few of them were stillbirth. Some of them were miscarriages. And some of them, they passed inside, like their heart stopped beating,” McCombs shared.
Her own experiences dealing with loss and lack of education on care after multiple miscarriages led to her becoming a bereavement doula. McCombs took matters into her own hands when no one would give her answers about her losses and potential causes. At one point, she reviewed her own medical chart to learn more about what was going on.
A miscarriage, also called early pregnancy loss or spontaneous abortion, occurs when there is pregnancy loss before 20 weeks. According to Planned Parenthood, eight out of 10 miscarriages happen in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. A stillbirth occurs when a baby passes away in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
In 2020, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data found that Black and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women experienced some of the highest rates of stillbirth, more than twice the rate of white women.
When McCombs experienced her losses, she was unable to take leave from work nor did she have any other financial means to cover the time she would have needed to take off work.
“I’m so, so grateful that this is something that’s even being spoken about right now because it’s very, very hard. Loss is not just something that happens physically, it happens mentally as well emotionally. It’s very taxing.”
With SB 848, California is one of few states that have a specific law dedicated to reproductive loss. Last year, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed the Family Bereavement Leave Act into law which allows an employee to take up to 10 work days following a reproductive loss.
While the law does not reference abortion, there are several types of abortions that can fall under the umbrella of a “reproductive loss event” like when a doctor has delivered a medical diagnosis of a nonviable pregnancy and urges an abortion as treatment. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists examine viability in two contexts: early pregnancy loss and whether a fetus might survive outside of the uterus.
McCombs explained that the topic of reproductive loss is gaining more notoriety, but is still very uncomfortable to discuss due to the emotional and personal nature of such losses.
“It’s getting notoriety now, but it’s still very uncomfortable to talk about. People’s emotions [and] even being able to hold space for others is being swept under the rug,” McCombs explained. “So, we need community and we need support to be able to get through it because the grief journey is a roller coaster.”
For those who have experienced reproductive loss, Loma Linda University offers bereavement support and education through several programs such as Always in My Heart Support Groups, the Butterfly Program and Children’s Grief. McCombs also offers bereavement support for birthing people and their families throughout the Inland Empire.
This article is published as part of the Commonwealth Health Equity Reporting Fellowship.