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Letter: Wrong prescription for family leave

A pregnant woman at a computer.

A pregnant woman at a computer. Credit: iStock

I was heartened to read that writer Kristina Rasmussen of the Illinois Policy Institute shares my interest in giving women more control of their lives. But her response to my proposed Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act -- a plan to give all working Americans paid family leave -- misses the reality facing today's working families ["A better benefit for maternity leave," Opinion, Aug. 11].

Currently, if an employer won't provide paid leave for the birth of a baby, a parent's illness, or a son or daughter who was wounded in the military, families are stuck with the choice between earning a paycheck or caring for their loved ones. The truth is that right now, only the wealthiest few can have it both ways.

The fact that the United States is the only industrialized nation without paid maternity leave does not mean our women are freer than other countries' women. This legislation would make it so that men and women will no longer have to choose between providing for their families or being there for a baby or a loved one who suddenly needs a few weeks of care.

Most families can't afford to put away enough money to cover weeks without a paycheck. Just as Social Security provides an important path to retirement, this legislation would provide an earned benefit that doesn't add a cent to the deficit. The ability to care for a family member should not be a luxury only for those who can afford it.

Kirsten Gillibrand, Brunswick

Editor's note: The writer is a U.S. senator representing New York.