Breaking News
May 28, 2018 - New consensus statement outlines evidence-based medical opinion on abusive head trauma
May 28, 2018 - E-Cigarettes Don’t Help Smokers Quit, But Cash Might
May 28, 2018 - New screening tool developed to assess tanning addiction
May 28, 2018 - Unhappy combination of alcohol, anger, and aggressive behavior
May 28, 2018 - Loyola survey identifies significant group of burn patients with elevated PTSD symptoms
May 28, 2018 - Cancer cells co-opt pain-sensing ‘wasabi receptor’ to survive oxidative stress
May 27, 2018 - New way of grouping atoms could herald novel materials, drugs and computers
May 27, 2018 - Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
May 27, 2018 - Breast cancer survivors do not receive recommended level of screening after surgery
May 27, 2018 - Recommendations Developed for Managing Postpartum Pain
May 27, 2018 - Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) | Arthritis Basics | Arthritis Types | Arthritis
May 27, 2018 - ‘Life support’ for transplant livers better than freezing: study
May 27, 2018 - Tree nut consumption linked to improved type 2 diabetes health
May 27, 2018 - Income and education gap causes racial differences in health behaviors, study shows
May 27, 2018 - Even at ‘Safe’ Levels, Air Pollution Puts Seniors at Risk
May 27, 2018 - Obstructive sleep apnea linked to thinning of calvaria, skull base
May 27, 2018 - Epigem’s Managing Director sets the bar for life sciences industry at VentureFest
May 27, 2018 - CPAP may reduce resting heart rate in prediabetic patients
May 27, 2018 - Study reveals striking disparities in health care access and quality across most nations
May 27, 2018 - The Yogi masters were right—meditation and breathing exercises can sharpen your mind
May 27, 2018 - SLU researcher aims to find solutions for diabetes patients at risk of hypoglycemia
May 27, 2018 - Scientists uncover the cause of insulin resistance in obesity
May 27, 2018 - $2.3 million NIH grant to support new project on oxytocin neurons and social behavior
May 27, 2018 - Less Driving Tied to Lower Cardiovascular Disease Risk
May 27, 2018 - Genetics Home Reference: LMNA-related congenital muscular dystrophy
May 27, 2018 - Long-term psychological study confirms time is the best medicine against homesickness
May 27, 2018 - Study explores if CPAP treatment can improve sexual QOL for sleep apnea patients
May 27, 2018 - Study investigates role played by brain in prosocial behavior
May 27, 2018 - New Guidelines Mean 1 in 3 Adults May Need Blood Pressure Meds
May 27, 2018 - Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Analysis: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information
May 27, 2018 - Kids in tough neighborhoods head to ER more often
May 27, 2018 - Exercise alters brain’s dopamine system to help treat addiction, study finds
May 27, 2018 - Sepsis patients treated and released from ED for outpatient follow-up experience good outcomes
May 27, 2018 - Initiative cuts overuse of tests, treatments for bronchiolitis
May 27, 2018 - Study links ‘sleep spindles’ to memory reactivation
May 27, 2018 - Scientists develop new method to speed up genome evolution of baker’s yeast
May 27, 2018 - Sunscreen pills are fake says FDA
May 27, 2018 - Study finds increasing wealth gap between households of seniors and families with children
May 27, 2018 - Link between tuberculosis and Parkinson’s disease discovered
May 27, 2018 - Doctors call on health authorities for permission to provide stroke patients with life-saving treatment
May 26, 2018 - Couples who eat seafood-rich diet tend to get pregnant faster
May 26, 2018 - NIH summit presents recommendations to accelerate treatment development for Alzheimer’s disease
May 26, 2018 - Medication-related harm found to be common among older adults, but preventable
May 26, 2018 - Lunaphore and Vitro announce partnership to develop ISH protocols for RNA, DNA targets
May 26, 2018 - Cryoablation Efficacious for Cancer Pain, Review Finds
May 26, 2018 - Link between IBD and Parkinson’s might allow doctors to slow down condition
May 26, 2018 - Study finds fewer than 5% of low-income, urban mothers use prenatal vitamins before pregnancy
May 26, 2018 - California hospitals urge moms to favor breast milk over formula
May 26, 2018 - Most concussion patients do not receive follow-up care after hospital discharge, says study
May 26, 2018 - Lifetime risks of developing Alzheimer’s dementia vary by age, gender
May 26, 2018 - Researchers find novel ways to improve participation in clinical research
May 26, 2018 - Researchers develop methods for measuring free-base nicotine levels in e-cigarettes
May 26, 2018 - AHA: Preterm Birth Could Warn of Mom’s Future Heart Risks
May 26, 2018 - Some calories more harmful than others
May 26, 2018 - Study links cell size with commitment to division
May 26, 2018 - Researchers develop new, rapid blood test to detect liver damage
May 26, 2018 - Researchers discover cascade of immune processes linked to poor outcomes in aggressive breast cancer
May 26, 2018 - New research will use mathematics to solve mysteries in cell biology
May 26, 2018 - Proposed National Resilience Strategy to reverse catastrophic increases in ‘deaths of despair’
May 26, 2018 - Mice remain slim on burger diet
May 26, 2018 - BMC receives $13.5 million award to test methods for delivering childhood anxiety treatment
May 26, 2018 - ‘Right to Try Act’ will not benefit terminally-ill patients
May 26, 2018 - Study reveals novel statistical algorithm to identify potential disease genes
May 26, 2018 - Two genes play vital roles in malignant brain cancer
May 26, 2018 - Study explores link between groundwater lithium and diagnoses of bipolar disorder, dementia
May 26, 2018 - Researchers reveal stimulatory effects of myelin on young neural cells
May 26, 2018 - Small part of cellular protein that helps form long-term memories also drives neurodegeneration
May 26, 2018 - Four-legged friends can have heart issues, too
May 26, 2018 - Scientists create small, self-contained spaces inside mammalian cells
May 26, 2018 - Better Social Support Network Protects Black Men Against HIV
May 26, 2018 - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
May 26, 2018 - Burnout, depression can affect ophthalmology residents, study finds
May 26, 2018 - Latinos and African Americans more likely to experience serious depression than Whites
May 26, 2018 - Data from past epidemic could help improve response to future Ebola outbreaks
May 26, 2018 - Researchers provide insight into how the memory molecule limits brain plasticity
May 26, 2018 - OSU biologist describes ‘restoration ecology’ approach toward patient health
May 26, 2018 - New approach to study brown fat could aid in finding treatments for obesity
May 26, 2018 - UCI Center on Stress & Health receives NIH funding to develop digital health interventions
May 26, 2018 - Could More Fish in the Diet Boost Sex Lives and Fertility?
May 26, 2018 - NTU Singapore and SERI invent new scope to diagnose glaucoma
After giving birth, Duckworth presses Senate to bend rules

After giving birth, Duckworth presses Senate to bend rules

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

On Monday, Tammy Duckworth became the first sitting senator to give birth, forcing Senate leaders to face how ill prepared they may be to accommodate the needs of a new mother.

Duckworth, 50, an Illinois Democrat, and her husband, Bryan Bowlsbey, announced she had given birth to a daughter, Maile (pronounced MY-lee) Pearl. Their first child, Abigail, was born in 2014, while Duckworth was serving in the House of Representatives.

“As tough as juggling the demands of motherhood and being a Senator can be, I’m hardly alone or unique as a working parent,” Duckworth said in a statement, “and my children only make me more committed to doing my job and standing up for hardworking families everywhere.”

Duckworth has made no secret of her bewilderment at the attention she has received since announcing her pregnancy in January. She seized the opportunity to call for adjusting Senate rules to accommodate new parents.

They are changes that could help make a pregnant senator less remarkable in the future, especially as record numbers of women set out to run for office — many of them Democrats spurred by the Donald Trump presidency and Republican-controlled Congress, but also many motivated by the #MeToo movement to fight sexual harassment and assault. A recent Associated Press survey found that 309 Democratic and Republican women so far had filed paperwork to run for the House, a new high.

Duckworth has said the most problematic rules generally prevent anyone who isn’t a senator, a designated aide or other official from being on the Senate floor. Because a senator must be on the floor in order to vote, she argued she should be allowed to bring her young child with her.

“For me to find out that there are issues with the United States Senate’s rules where I may not be able to vote or bring my child onto the floor of the Senate when I need to vote because we ban children from the floor, I thought, ‘Wow, I feel like I’m living in the 19th century instead of the 21st,'” she told CNN last month.

A spokesman for Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to comment on Duckworth’s proposal.

The Senate has bent its rules before to make accommodations for senators. Unsurprising for an institution where the average age in January 2017 was 61.8 years, those examples tend to favor senators battling serious illnesses. Exceptions have also been made for members with limited mobility. In 1997, for instance, some steps on the Senate floor were replaced with a ramp to assist newly elected Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), a disabled veteran who used a wheelchair.

Bill Dauster, who advised Democrats on Senate procedure for decades before retiring last year, said senators might ask their colleagues for permission, with unanimous approval, to bring aides onto the floor. For instance, some senators have brought people to push their wheelchairs. Duckworth may be able to follow that example with her newborn, he said.

“I think it would be wonderful theater if she went to the floor, asked consent that I be allowed to bring my infant child to the floor for brief periods of time for the rest of the session of Congress,” Dauster said, “and see who objects.”

Like the United States, Congress has no blanket policy on parental leave, allowing senators and representatives to set their own office policy. Duckworth offers her staff 12 weeks of parental leave and plans to take an equivalent amount of time. She will keep in contact with her office and return for close votes, said Sean Savett, her spokesman.

The lingering stigma among some voters against female lawmakers with young children can make it hard to take extended leave, though several candidates have been tackling that head-on. At least two women running for office this year have footage of themselves breastfeeding in their campaign ads.

Those difficulties, along with the demands of motherhood that persist even today, mean many women have postponed or ruled out a career in politics.

“We’re asking women, in some senses, to take on a third part-time job,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “And so what we’ve seen, still, is women are more likely to wait until they’re a bit older to start in politics, which has implications for where they end up in politics.”

Walsh pointed out that when mothers do run, they carry their unique perspective with them to Congress. After having her first daughter, Duckworth introduced legislation that would ensure safe, clean and convenient lactation rooms in large- and medium-sized airports. Former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), the mother of twins who at 38 became the youngest woman elected to the Senate and later the first woman to chair the Senate agriculture committee, championed nutritional school lunches in the late 1990s.

While she is the first in the Senate, Duckworth is among 10 women who have given birth while serving in Congress, five of whom are currently in office. (Betty Koed, the Senate historian, said her office does not keep detailed records of senators’ children, though at least two former senators adopted kids while in office: Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas).

Change has been slow — and primarily female-driven. The Office of the Attending Physician opened Capitol Hill’s first designated lactation room in 2006. After Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) became the first female House speaker in 2007, she opened more lactation rooms — enabling staffers and members to better adhere to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that children be breastfed for at least the first year of life.

Duckworth is no stranger to breaking new ground. She was one of the first women serving in the Army to fly combat missions in the Iraq War, according to her official biography, and later became one of the first female combat veterans elected to Congress. She was also the first female amputee elected to Congress, having lost both legs while serving in Iraq.

She is also no stranger to the challenges facing a new mother in Congress. In 2014, pregnant with her first child and under a doctor’s orders not to travel, Duckworth petitioned House Democratic leaders to allow her to vote by proxy in a round of internal party elections. They refused, citing the problems it could cause when members request absences for other reasons.

While bare shoulders may be unwelcome in the House, children are not. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) brought along her then-7-year-old son, who has Down syndrome, as the House passed legislation in 2014 that helps those with disabilities and their families save money for their care.

The highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress, McMorris Rodgers is also the only woman to give birth three times while serving. In Cosmopolitan magazine last fall, she described missing three weeks of votes while her prematurely born son was in an intensive care unit, as well as the letters from a few constituents who chastised her for running for re-election afterward.

“We need more women and moms in Congress — both in the House and in the Senate,” McMorris Rodgers said in a statement to Kaiser Health News. “So we should make sure that the congressional workplace reflects the needs of working moms. The House allows children on the House floor, and I believe it should be allowed in the Senate too.”

“My kids, and having all three of them while serving in the House, have made me a better legislator,” she added. “Being a mom makes politics real.”

KHN’s coverage of women’s health care issues is supported in part by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Emmarie Huetteman: [email protected], @emmarieDC

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles