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Just in Time for Mother’s Day, Houlahan Introduces Military Moms Matter Act

Historic bill would transform the armed forces into a more supportive organization for new mothers, increasing U.S. military readiness

WASHINGTON – Today, Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), chair of the Servicewomen and Women Veterans Congressional Caucus, introduced her Military Moms Matter Act of 2021. This historic, bipartisan legislation, alongside Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK), aims to protect and support servicewomen who have just given birth, particularly during the critical postpartum stage.

 

“Moms who serve are badasses,” said Houlahan. “And our military needs to do a better job of caring for and supporting servicemembers who are building a family. We have seen great progress in the past few years, but more can and must be done. Supporting our military moms isn’t a women’s issue – it’s a military readiness and national security issue. I am thrilled to see so many women electing to serve their country. Our military needs to respond with inclusive policies like standardized paid leave, postpartum depression screening and an increased time window between giving birth and having to pass your required fitness test again. As a former mom who was on active duty, I couldn’t be prouder to introduce our Military Moms Matter Act for our badass moms who wear the uniform to protect us all.”

 

“I’m proud to join with Rep. Houlahan to sponsor the Military Moms Matter Act,” said Bice. “Many of our military systems are created from the male perspective of service. Now that more women than ever are joining the military, it’s important that we work to accommodate the needs of new moms and their newborns. There’s no need for our military women to have to ‘soldier through’ postpartum depression, a short paternity leave or passing a physical fitness test soon after giving birth. This legislation will accomplish so much to help improve the lives of our military mothers and their families and help them safely return to service.”

 

“We are grateful to Representative Houlahan for introducing the Military Moms Matter Act of 2021,” said Malka S. Zeefe, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Postpartum Pelvic Health Advocates. “Women of child-bearing age make up the majority of women who are on active duty in the military. More than one-in-ten of those women were pregnant, and almost 64,000 babies are born to active duty women in the military annually. At least one-third of births result in pelvic floor disorders, which are underdiagnosed and undertreated. All postpartum women in the US deserve more attention to this issue. However, we recognize the critical nature of attending to the physical and mental readiness and morale of postpartum service members seeking to serve our country with dignity, excellence and peak capability. Women who have pelvic floor disorders—which can cause pain, incontinence and even prolapse—perform worse in military readiness tests, including fitness tests. Pelvic floor disorders may be helped by physical therapy, as well as early screening and additional recovery time. Among other things, this bill would extend leave for additional recovery, suspend expectations for a woman's body to "snap back" and perform at pre-pregnancy levels immediately after birth, provide access to habilitative and/or rehabilitative therapy and ease the means for addressing her own postpartum medical needs at the same time as her infant's. Beyond thanking these women for their service, we encourage Congress to care for these women, promote their quality of life and support their return to military readiness.”

 

“Pregnancy and becoming a parent is challenging enough under any circumstances, but for military moms – spouses or active duty service members – serving far from family, friends and their network of support, it’s exponentially harder,” said Heidi Murkoff, founder of the What to Expect Project and author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting“That’s why the What to Expect Project and I are proud to endorse the Military Moms Matter Act, a critical piece of legislation that removes barriers to essential maternal health care, mental health care and supportive postpartum care that every mom deserves – especially when she’s doing the heavy lifting of serving our country along with the even heavier lift of pregnancy, birthing and parenting. Military moms are strong, no doubt, but that doesn’t mean that they should have to “soldier up” without help, whether it’s help for postpartum anxiety or depression or PTSD, help recovering from the physical toll taken by pregnancy and childbirth or help getting the time they and their partners need to bond as a family. This is ‘support for our troops’ that puts action behind the bumper sticker to offer our amazing military moms and families the support they need, and that we owe them –  making their lives safer, happier and less stressful. We’re so grateful to Representative Houlahan for introducing the Military Moms Matter Act and for her passionate leadership and tireless efforts and commitment behalf of our military moms and families.”

 

The Military Moms Matter Act of 2021 would:

 

  • Ensure new moms don’t have to meet their physical fitness test for 12 months postpartum
  • Expand postpartum depression and anxiety screening for new moms
  • Expand the pilot program that pairs a newborn’s check-up and the mom’s postpartum follow up
  • Increase maternity and paternity leave to 12 weeks for both primary and secondary caregivers
  • Separate the 6 weeks of convalescent leave separate from paternity/maternity leave
  • Offer physical therapy referrals for pelvic floor examinations and expands the number of military treatment facilities that offer pelvic health physical therapists and pelvic health rehabilitation services

 

Full text of the Military Moms Matter Act of 2021 can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

Houlahan is an Air Force veteran, an engineer, a serial entrepreneur, an educator and a nonprofit leader. She represents Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, which encompasses Chester County and southern Berks County. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Small Business Committee.

 

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