Just wanted to pipe in with a bit of a correction on Greg's post that the money for Unemployment Insurance comes out the workers' paychecks. I'm not sure if this is a state-by-state case or a national thing, but at least in South Carolina, workers don't pay for unemployment benefits. That money is paid in entirely by the employer. I'm inclined to think that that's a national policy, since this is what Wiki has to say on the issue:
Unemployment insurance is a federal-state program jointly financed through federal and state employer payroll taxes (federal and state UI taxes). Generally, employers must pay both state and federal unemployment taxes if:
(1) they pay wages to employees totaling $1,500 or more in any quarter of a calendar year; or,
(2) they had at least one employee during any day of a week during 20 weeks in a calendar year, regardless of whether the weeks were consecutive. However, some state laws differ from the federal law.
The distinction is important, because it still boils down to the employer paying an employee while they aren't working. No matter what the reason, mandating that for a business to do is an issue that needs to be considered long and hard. Everyone on this board, stop for a moment and think. You own a business and you have, let's say five employees. One of them gets pregnant. You now have to pay that person for six weeks, while also either losing their contribution or hiring someone to replace them. The person you hire as a replacement has to be cool with only being hired for six weeks. You also have to continue to pay unemployment insurance taxes on both the person on leave and the replacement. Now imagine that two employees get pregnant at the same time. Or three.
I like to think that if I ran a business (something I intend to do someday), I would be willing to make sure my employees could take the time they needed when they had a kid. At the same time, I know that there are situations- very real, very possible situations- where a single employee getting pregnant could put a small business very close to bankruptcy. I used to be a carpenter, and I saw several businesses shut down because some idiot employee didn't watch what he was doing and got hurt (employers pay disability/workman's comp benefits here, too). I'm not saying that mothers are equivalent to those injured workers intellectually, but (and I'm speaking strictly from the POV of an employer's accounts book here) they are every bit as much a financial liability.
Now, having said all that, two things more from the heart and less from the head: I am a man of faith, and I am very disappointed that businesses have to pay for maternity leave. The people of my faith should be the ones stepping in to give help to mothers who need it.
The second thing is more personally directed at Greg and Liz: Have your kids. God looks out for parents who care as much as y'all obviously do. My parents didn't have the benefit of maternity leave, and they had three of us. We had some lean, lean years- gravy biscuits three meals a day years, and when we ran out of milk we made the damned things with water. But we're all still alive, and all of us turned out okay. We even got a benefit; all of us know what it's like to live broke, and we can tell y'all this: it's not that bad.
I'm rambling, but what I'm trying to say is, I'm sorry you're in the situation you're in, and I'd like to help, and I'd rather do it as a fellow human being than as a taxpayer. And it's easy to say this, but don't be scared. You already love your kid, and that's infinitely more important than being able to give them a "good life," whatever that means.