WASHINGTON (OSV News) — In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, some Catholic organizations announced they will implement expanded parental leave policies or provide other resources as a means of demonstrating their commitment to building a culture of life.
The June 2022 ruling, which overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that led to widespread legal abortion access in the U.S., appears to have prompted some organizations to rethink how they support their parenting staff while they also advocate for pro-life policies. The moves provide contrast to corporations that implemented benefits for pregnant employees to cover abortion costs, including out of state travel for the procedure.
The Catholic University of America in Washington announced last October an expansion of on-campus parenting resources for students, faculty and staff to demonstrate its commitment to a holistic culture of life. This included increasing paid parental leave for faculty and staff from eight to 12 weeks as of Dec. 1, 2022 and adding designated expectant-mother parking on campus, as well as other new resources for pregnant students.
CUA is “committed to being a supportive community for every parent who studies, works, or teaches on our campus,” the university’s president Peter Kilpatrick wrote in an email last fall to the university community announcing the effort.
Other Catholic organizations that expanded their parental leave policies after the Dobbs ruling include the Diocese of Orange, which announced in October it would expand its parental leave policy to 100% pay for eight weeks, and 50% pay for another four weeks.
In a statement at the time, Bishop Kevin Vann said the Dobbs decision caused him to reflect on his mother’s work as a maternity nurse spending “countless hours helping newborns, their parents and their families.”
“I know the generous expansion of paid parental leave for all our mothers and fathers would make her proud, as it does me,” Bishop Vann said.
Prior to the Dobbs ruling, the group FemCatholic said it contacted all U.S. dioceses regarding their paid parental leave policies. The group found that fewer than 40 U.S. dioceses offered “some length of paid leave at 100% of an employee’s salary” and only five offered a full 12 weeks of paid leave.
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website, the U.S. has 194 Latin and Eastern dioceses, the Archdiocese for Military Services, and the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a Catholic diocese with Anglican traditions founded under Benedict XVI.
“Inspired by the writings of Pope St. John Paul II, we aim to start a conversation on family leave with the Catholic Church at large,” the group said on its website about their paid leave campaign. “We’re also writing a petition to the US Bishops asking them to lead the way in progressing family policies in their dioceses.”
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, told OSV news that paid leave is an important way companies can demonstrate to their employees that they will “try to make sure that women have every opportunity to carry their child to term instead of abortion.”
Day, who is Catholic, has advocated for parental leave policies as part of a “Whole Life” approach to the issue. She expressed dissatisfaction with some corporations who reacted to the Dobbs news by providing abortion benefits for their employees.
“What’s frustrating to me is seeing these companies have a willingness to fly women over to other states to get late-term abortions and pay for their hotels, but not offer that same kind of support to a woman who does decide to have her child,” Day said.
Day said there are other ways companies can show working parents that they will be supported. She pointed to a state government office in Kansas allowing new mothers to bring their babies to work with them after their parental leave ends.
“I’m encouraged by all these conversations, and I would like to see more of them and less conversations about paying for abortion from companies,” Day said.
Catholic or other pro-life organizations, she said, have an extra responsibility to promote a culture of life in their workplaces.
“The organizations are generally smaller, so it’s obviously harder,” Day said. “But, you know, if we’re going to say ‘we’re pro-life,’ we have to be pro-life.”
Other accommodations for working parents, Day said, should include policies providing for flexible work schedules or onsite or nearby childcare.
“A Catholic organization, especially, should provide an environment where the family is included, as we support the new mothers and fathers,” Day said.
Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington.