Boston Mayoral Candidate Michelle Wu Says She Supports Paid Abortion Leave — And She’s Not The Only City Councilor Who Does

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Boston mayoral candidate Michelle Wu wants to expand paid family leave to include abortion.

Paid family leave?

It exists in Massachusetts. It passed in 2018 and went into effect at the start of this year. The city of Boston has offered its own version of it since 2015.

Paid abortion leave?

It does not exist, but Boston mayoral candidate Michelle Wu said she would like to see it happen during an event hosted by state representative Liz Miranda (D-Roxbury).

Wu said appeared at a forum Wednesday, August 25 called “Your Health Matters: Sexual and Reproductive Freedom and Justice in Boston.” Wu said that fellow city councilors Annissa Essaibi George and Lydia Edwards support the measure; Essaibi George, a fellow mayoral candidate, was also present at the forum, which took place over Zoom.

Wu addressed abortion while talking about her support for paid parental leave for city workers.

“I am proud to have written and passed Boston’s first paid parental leave ordinance as a strong statement that we became one of the first cities to truly provide safety to city workers around how and when each individual can choose to start a family,” Wu said Wednesday, August 25. “And now, in partnership with Councilor Essaibi George and Councilor Edwards, we are revising those rules to make sure we are clear about including pregnancy loss and termination as well.”

By pregnancy loss, Wu meant a miscarriage. Some politicians have pushed to give women a few days of what amounts to paid bereavement leave if they lose their unborn child to a miscarriage. It’s something that U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) and U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Dorchester) support federally, as does Democrats for Life of America. It’s also a policy that New Zealand enacted earlier this year. In both the Duckworth-Pressley proposal and the New Zealand policy, the allotted leave time is three days.

The city of Boston currently allows up to 12 weeks of paid leave for various personal situations, including when a woman miscarries a pregnancy after 20 weeks. The city’s cutoff is based on the likelihood that a woman who has a miscarriage that far along in pregnancy will have medical paperwork proving the event took place.

However, Wu also wants the city to provide paid leave for what she calls pregnancy “termination” — a term used to describe abortion. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines abortion as “the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus.”

Extending paid leave for abortion was discussed at length during a July 13 meeting of the Boston City Council’s Committee on Government Operations.

Edwards, who chairs the subcommittee, talked about her support for the idea when discussing how she, Wu, and Essaibi George support more reforms to the city’s paid leave ordinance, including allowing paid leave for a woman who miscarries at any time of a pregnancy, no matter how far along. 

“Many people lose, you know, can lose a pregnancy before that time and it can be traumatic,” Edwards said during the July 13 meeting. “And also there are times where you will terminate a pregnancy and that may or may not be a reason why you need to take some time. I don’t know that that’s really any of our business to determine whether it’s a stillbirth or a miscarriage or for whatever reason you lost your pregnancy, and that’s why we use the term loss of pregnancy. I do think if we’re gonna be leaders and discuss, and are leaders by even having stillbirth mentioned in our policy, I think we need to continue to move and evolve as society’s moving and evolving to include all sorts of people and experiences to ensure that we treat them with compassion and dignity. That’s why we have parental leave, not just maternal leave.”

Fellow councilor Julie Meija said during the meeting that she appreciated her colleagues’ efforts and said that people who have an abortion may experience what she called “trauma.”

“I just want to say how much the intentionality around making sure that we’re not creating additional hardships for folks who have decided to terminate. I do appreciate that intentionality of protecting people’s privacy. There is no need for us to ask those types of questions, so giving people the opportunity to not have to disclose that, I think that is right on point and exactly the type of space that we want to create for people who are already experiencing enough trauma.”

Tammy Pust, a city official who represented acting mayor Kim Janey during the July 13 meeting, said the mayor wants to work on making paid abortion leave a reality. 

“The policy right now defines a stillbirth as a loss at over 20 weeks of gestation and certainly, we acknowledge that there’s much loss that goes on before 20 weeks of gestation,” Pust said. “There would not necessarily be medical documentation of that and again, we can find ways to work with you to make sure that that’s workable, but certainly people who choose to terminate may or may not want to submit documentation to that effect to their HR office and people who have an involuntary loss may or may not have any medical documentation of that and so on our end, we’ll continue to work with you to figure out how we can make that workable so that we’re not standing in the way of anything and instead moving forward.”

Wu and Essaibi George both expressed support for extending paid leave during the July 13 meeting but did not mention abortion.

However, Edwards read a statement from NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts executive director Rebecca Hart Holder expressing support for the proposal.

“For many families and pregnant people, pregnancy loss can bring unimaginable pain and grief. Supporting people coping with pregnancy loss by allowing them to take the time they need to grieve and heal is critically important,” the NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts statement said. “Reproductive freedom is the ability to decide if, when, and how to have a family and for those who experience pregnancy loss, it is the ability to mourn and care for themselves and their family. We applaud Councilor Edwards, Councilor Wu, Councilor Essaibi George for embracing the full spectrum of reproductive freedom and creating a policy that will ensure greater equity for women and pregnant people.”

The expanded paid leave enacted this year applies to workers meet all of these criteria:


1. The employee has been employed by the City of Boston in a benefits-eligible position for at least 12 consecutive months or 52 consecutive weeks without any break in service;

2. The employee has been in pay status for at least 1250 hours in the preceding 12-month period;

3. The employee is either (a) not covered by a collective bargaining agreement or (b) is covered by a collective bargaining agreement
through: AFSCME; AFSCME 1526; Boston Park Rangers Association;
Boston Police Detective Benevolent Society, Forensics Group; IAFF;
New York Typographical Union, CWA Local 14156; PSA; AFSCME;

4. The employee will experience an Event on or after the effective date of this Paid Parental Leave Policy.


The paid leave scheme that some councilors want to amend went into effect on May 1, 2021.

The city’s paid leave scheme offers employees 100 percent of their base wages during the first four weeks of leave, then 75 percent for the next four weeks, and 50 percent for the last four weeks of leave.

Spokesmen for Wu and Essaibi George could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday. Nor could Edwards.


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