Back in May, Media Matters highlighted radio host Mike Gallagher's ill-informed remark about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly's maternity leave. Gallagher, a Fox News contributor and frequent guest on Kelly's show, called her maternity leave “a racket” and wondered whether a man would also “get three months off” for paternity leave.
On her first day back, Kelly confronted Gallagher over his “moronic” remarks. While Gallagher initially attempted to defend them, it quickly became clear he didn't know what he was talking about:
GALLAGHER: Well -- are you going to disagree that there is - now, again, I'm on my knees -
KELLY: Oh, you're standing - are you doubling down? No, no, no, no, no. Are you not taking those remarks back, is maternity leave, according to you, a racket?
GALLAGHER: Well, do men get maternity leave, Megyn? I can't believe I'm asking you this -
KELLY: Guess what, honey, they do. Yes, they do. It's called the Family Medical Leave Act.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain private employees, both men and women, with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. FMLA, while a significant piece of legislation in 1993, still has several limitations.
Kelly went on to add about paid family leave in the United States:
KELLY: The United States is the only country in the advanced world that doesn't allow paid - doesn't require paid maternity leave. Now I happen to work for a nice employer that gives me paid maternity leave. But virtually no --
GALLAGHER: Yes, you do.
KELLY -- but the United States is the only advanced country that doesn't require paid leave. If anything, the United States is in the dark ages when it comes to maternity leave. And what is it about getting pregnant and carrying a baby nine months that you don't think deserves a few months off so bonding and recovery can take place, hm?
Kelly's correct that the United States is in the “dark ages” on family leave. In a February 2011 report, Human Rights Watch found that "[j]ust three countries definitively offer no legal guarantee of paid maternity leave: Papua New Guinea, Swaziland--and the United States":
One of the most common work-family supports, paid maternity leave, is practically universal: academic research covering 190 countries shows that as of 2011, 178 countries guarantee paid maternity leave under national law. In nine of the 190 countries, the status of paid leave for new mothers was unclear. Just three countries definitively offer no legal guarantee of paid maternity leave: Papua New Guinea, Swaziland--and the United States.
This lack of paid leave under law in America is at odds with a workforce revolution in which female participation in paid labor skyrocketed over the past century, especially among those with young children. [pp. 6]
Kelly added “that women who spend less time with their babies after they're first born are more likely to get depressed and be unhealthy.” Indeed, Human Rights Watch notes that "[s]tudies have shown lesser rates of immunization and health visits for babies when maternity leaves are short, higher infant mortality where parental leave is unpaid, lower rates of breastfeeding connected with early return to work, and increased risk of depression among mothers with short leaves.":
Empirical research from around the world underscores the need for work-family supports, including paid and sufficiently long leave for new parents. Studies have shown lesser rates of immunization and health visits for babies when maternity leaves are short, higher infant mortality where parental leave is unpaid, lower rates of breastfeeding connected with early return to work, and increased risk of depression among mothers with short leaves. Data on poverty provides evidence of the financial importance of paid family leave after childbirth or adoption. The entry of families into poverty has been shown to be strongly associated with childbirth, especially in female-headed households. [pp. 10]
Despite their disagreement, Kelly said later in the show: “To those mommy bloggers out there, Mike Gallagher is actually a good guy and a friend. So all's fine, please don't send him any hate mail.”