“I can vividly remember the day, nearly six years ago, when I drove to work on an otherwise ordinary morning, sat in the car park staring at the dashboard for around 10 minutes, then drove away again without getting out. Less than 24 hours earlier … a radiographer had kindly but matter-of-factly told us that there was no heartbeat in my wife’s womb …” That was the beginning of an article I wrote a couple of years ago, sharing my experience with miscarriage and expressing support for a law change that would grant bereavement leave to women and their spouses and partners who experience a miscarriage or a still-birth. Last week, Parliament passed the Holidays (Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage) Amendment Bill and made this change a reality.
I wrote then, and affirm now, that our miscarriage was the worst experience of my life. In my article, I confessed: “It seems ridiculous to me now that I could possibly have thought about going back to work the next day, but I had no idea how I was ‘supposed’ to respond … I’d barely heard anyone even mention miscarriage …” I was given bereavement leave by my employer, and I’m sure many decent employers would have done the same even without the law change, but as I argued previously, “it’s important that employment law provides minimum standards of protection for all workers.”
So I was glad to see not only that the law passed, but that it passed with unanimous support from all parties, recognising what all too many of us know—that a miscarriage, no matter at what stage it occurs, is a real and wrenching loss of an unborn child, an event that permanently rends the fabric of our family life.
Speaking in Parliament, National’s Erica Stanford expressed some disquiet that the new law wouldn’t apply to women suffering grief in the aftermath of an abortion. But whether or not the Bill should have taken that step, the step it does take is a decent and compassionate one. In stark contrast to the bitter ideological debates over abortion, our parliamentarians have done something genuinely kind. Congratulations to the Bill’s sponsor, Labour’s Ginny Anderson, and to all of them.