Honor All Mothers by Asking Congress for These Protections | Sojourners

Honor All Mothers by Asking Congress for These Protections

Photo by Barbara Verge via Unsplash.

Most years, when Mother’s Day rolls around, my wife, Sharee, simply asks for an entire day off, a day in which she doesn’t have to think about planning or doing anything and can instead enjoy a day of pure rest. Each year, as I try to honor this request, I’m reminded just how much my wife does to ensure that our two active sons and I can thrive. I also call my mom to thank her for all the myriad ways she made sacrifices and poured into me so I could thrive. Isn’t that the hope and desire of every mom, to do their best to provide a safe and hopeful future for their children?

The Bible is unequivocal that we are to “honor” and even “revere” our mothers (Exodus 20:12 and Leviticus 19:3). While it’s a commitment that needs more attention than one Sunday each year, Mother’s Day provides a special day in which we should go out of our way to honor our mothers with words and acts of gratitude and love. Unfortunately, Mother’s Day often misses the mark, becoming little more than a cards-and-flower holiday that sometimes leaves those who are childless — whether by choice or not — feeling left out. Even Anna Jarvis, who conceived of Mother’s Day after her own mother’s death in 1905, eventually expressed regret over how the day had become overly commercialized. So, in addition to the cards and flowers, what if we transformed this Mother’s Day into an imperative to ensure that all moms receive the care, support, and permanent protections they need and deserve?

Since having kids, I have come to further appreciate both the beauty and the struggles of parenthood, especially for moms. Moms today face challenges that include raising children amid the mounting pressures of social media, the epidemic of gun violence, the escalating crisis of suicide, depression, addiction, and so much more. It’s a miracle that mothers are able to carry as much as they do, but this shouldn’t have to be the norm. Sadly, instead of honoring mothers, so many of our political priorities and public policies neglect them, and at worst, demonize them.

A few weeks ago, my colleague Lauren W. Reliford, who serves as Sojourners’ political director, wrote about the shameful crisis of Black maternal mortality in the U.S., pointing out that there were times in recent years when the maternal mortality rate across the U.S. was higher than in any other wealthy nation. That crisis becomes all the more heart-wrenching when we realize that racism plays such a major role in it. As Reliford so aptly put it:

Overall, Black women and American Indian/Alaska Native women are 2 to 3 times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women. And that disparity can’t be blamed on racial disparities related to poverty or family life; a Black mother with a college education is still at a 60 percent greater risk for a maternal death than a white or Hispanic woman with less than a high school education.

In her piece, Reliford focused on the importance of supporting the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, a package of bipartisan legislation aimed at improving health outcomes for all U.S. mothers and eliminating racial disparities in those outcomes. As we celebrate Mother’s Day, it’s important to insist that our legislators in Congress get this legislation passed for the good of mothers, their children, and everyone who loves and cares for both.

Unfortunately, there are even worse dangers on the horizon for the health and well-being of moms and kids. This week, President Joe Biden met with Republican and Democratic leaders from both chambers of Congress to attempt to end the reckless, ongoing standoff around raising the government’s debt ceiling. Just this week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that if Congress fails to pass an increase to the federal government’s borrowing authority this month, the government could run out of money as soon as June 1, causing “an economic and financial catastrophe.” The question of how much the government intends to spend in future years on all programs, including those that serve mothers and children, should be wholly separate from the question of whether the government will be legally allowed to continue paying its bills for expenses already incurred in the past. Instead, Republican leaders have vowed to hold the regular process of raising the government’s debt limit hostage to extract severe cuts to federal spending and other policy concessions from the Biden administration, many of which would profoundly hurt mothers.

Let’s be clear: The consequences of a government default would be disastrous. According to the Washington Post, it could “unleash economic havoc, potentially disrupting Social Security and other federal services, casting millions of Americans out of their jobs, sending shockwaves through the global financial system and tipping the U.S. into the worst downturn since the pandemic began.” Such a cataclysm would undoubtedly hit hardest those who are most economically vulnerable — disproportionately people of color. There is nothing pro-family, pro-life, or pro-mom about holding the well-being of the national and even global economy hostage to extreme, partisan politics.

Another danger to mothers and children is that Republicans in Congress and the Biden administration will negotiate a debt ceiling increase on the backs of families, mothers, and children experiencing poverty. On April 25, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would raise the debt ceiling — but would do so by making a series of devastating cuts to programs that serve people in vulnerable situations. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan policy institute, laid out the stakes of that proposal: Among other harmful provisions in the bill, some of those specifically affecting mothers and children include putting nearly 1 million children at risk of losing cash benefits that help them meet basic needs; putting more than 10 million people in Medicaid expansion states at risk of losing health coverage; cutting off between 250,000 and 1.2 million people from access to healthy foods and vital services provided through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and forcing more than 200,000 children from low-income families to lose access to Head Start .The bill would also undermine the expansion of the IRS’ capacity for tax enforcement, in effect giving high-income tax cheaters as much money as it would take away from low-income families through cuts in Medicaid, SNAP, and TANF.

That’s why this Mother’s Day I hope you’ll join me in asking Congress to gift moms six lasting protections that are essential to uplift their quality of life. These include: fair workplace provisions to ensure all working people have access to permanent, comprehensive paid family and medical leave and earned sick time; expanding access to high-quality, affordable child care and pre-K; maternal justice toimprove health and well-being before, during, and after pregnancy and reduce the alarming rate of maternal mortality; just treatment of immigrant families; an end to gun violence; and passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would constitutionally guarantee gender equality and help prevent sex-based discrimination.

This Mother’s Day, mothers deserve more than flowers. Help us to truly honor all mothers by calling on Congress to give lasting protections to moms. Let us treat mothers needs as holy and ensure they are honored with more abundant life.