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Meghan McCain Breaks With Republicans — Advocates For Paid-Time Off For Parents

The conservative firebrand now recognizes the need for a federal paid leave program.

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Meghan McCain, the daughter of the late John McCain and co-host for The View who is known for her controversial, conservative views on the show that often puts her at odds with her fellow co-hosts, apparently has finally come around to a pretty basic truth: Parents need paid-time-off after they have babies.

In late 2020, Meghan McCain welcomed the birth of her first daughter, Liberty Sage, with her husband. She then went on maternity leave, a benefit offered to her by her workplace, ABC, and returned to the show yesterday after months of taking time to heal and care for her infant daughter. And her experience as a new mom has led her to a revelation: everyone, not just those who have the benefit offered to them by their workplace, should have access to paid maternity and family leave

McCain had to undergo an emergency C-section and had postnatal preeclampsia, two things that complicated her recovery from giving birth and that prolonged the length that she took paid leave. On the show, talking to her View colleagues, she said: “The whole I was thinking what a privilege it is to have this kind of maternity leave,” McCain said. “And then, as I thought about it, the more angry I got that there were women in the rest of America that didn’t have the same kind of luxury I had working here at The View.”

For McCain, that led her first and foremost to think about her conservative party, which has failed to meaningfully advocate for paid leave (or a paid leave program that would genuinely be helpful to new, working parents, like Marco Rubio’s plan that would require new parents to borrow against their retirement to heal from childbirth) where Democrats have held it as a lynchpin of their party platform for years in various forms. “We are leaving women in this country without the capacity and ability — unless you have an employer that allows you to — to take care of your child, to heal physically, which is something that needs to happen.”

McCain is right — at least mostly. Although she appears to think paid parental leave (which would give dads the right to take time off as well) is a stretch too far, she does recognize that not having a mandated paid maternity leave program for the vast majority of American parents and new moms is a legislative failure. The United States is nearly alone in not providing government-mandated paid leave to its workers — instead, employers take up the charge, and your access to paid leave depends on where you work and quite frankly what you do. 

And that is simply not enough. Just 1 in 5 workers have access to paid leave through their employers. But the vast majority of voters support a national paid family leave policy that would cover all people caring for a new child — and what policies we do have, like the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides unpaid leave to less than 60 percent of workers — just doesn’t cut it. Paid leave is a growing issue and a number of states are taking up the charge on their own umbrage, like Colorado, which just passed a paid leave program via ballot amendment in the November election that will be enacted in a few years. 

And while it’s frustrating, of course, that McCain had to go through it herself to recognize one of the many ways that the United States does not come through for its citizens, it’s important to note that this is how many people change their views and minds on important issues. A personal experience she went through began to make her think about the big picture and her privilege as a wealthy woman with a secure, salaried job. Hopefully, she uses this new perspective for good.