An American lawmaker took her newborn child to a vote and a photo of her is being widely shared on social media and has prompted a debate about paid maternity leaves.
Assembly member Buffy Wicks, who gave birth in late July after a C-section, turned up at the California Assembly with her daughter Elly. She had to come in after her request to vote by proxy due to concerns over Covid-19 was rejected.
According to Politico, while remote voting was allowed in the California State Senate for many of her colleagues, her request was turned down because she wasn’t considered at high risk. Most voted remotely after Republican State Senator Brian Jones tested positive for the virus last week.
Wicks, a former staffer for President Barack Obama, traveled to Sacramento from Oakland with her newborn. She even ended up driving through smoke from wildfires in the state. She attended the final day of session and debated legislation until midnight to cast her vote on State Bill 1120, which focused on the state’s housing crisis.
Wearing both a mask and a baby carrier, Wicks (D-Oakland), posed for a photo in the Capitol on Monday. “Yep, I’m here! (And so is Elly)” she tweeted.
— Buffy Wicks (@BuffyWicks) August 31, 2020
In a video on the Assembly floor, Wicks can be seen bouncing her 1-month-old baby to calm her. As the baby continued to cry, the lawmaker was heard saying: “I was actually in the middle of feeding my daughter when this bill came up. And I ran down on the floor today because I strongly believe we need to pass this bill. And Elly agrees that we absolutely need to pass this bill.”
Absolutely devastated about #SB1120. Our housing crisis requires us to act, and tonight we failed to do that.
But I promise you this: I will *always* show up for housing — no matter what. pic.twitter.com/I4n6X07CNp
— Buffy Wicks (@BuffyWicks) September 1, 2020
“Pregnant people might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people,” said the CDC’s website.
The image quickly garnered a lot of attention online, with even former first lady and 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton commenting on it. While many working mothers said they have faced similar problems and praised her for showing up, others were upset that she wasn’t allowed to vote by proxy.
California Assemblymember @buffywicks was told that having recently given birth wasn’t sufficient excuse to cast a vote remotely.
So she brought her newborn daughter to the floor to weigh in on an important housing bill. 💪https://t.co/elofHmIcxl pic.twitter.com/ZQf9F10qKE
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 1, 2020
Oh my God, I’m so mad @BuffyWicks has to give a speech on the CA Assembly floor at 11:30 pm with a 1 month old, who is crying right now, because she was not given the right to vote remotely amid a pandemic. pic.twitter.com/PHaYq7arel
— Kim-Mai Cutler (@kimmaicutler) September 1, 2020
I’m floored by Asm. @BuffyWicks‘ support of #SB1120 and her dedication to the people’s work. Last night, she showed the immense strength of moms. I hope this sparks a meaningful dialogue about America’s need for better family leave policies and deep need for affordable housing. https://t.co/WfxD7E0Qf9
— Senator Toni Atkins (@SenToniAtkins) September 1, 2020
Amazing you did this. Appalling you had to.
— Brian Goldsmith (@GoldsmithB) September 1, 2020
.@BuffyWicks has proven time and again she’ll always do what’s best for her constituents. But in case we need an extra testament to her character, here it is. Strong women get things done!https://t.co/9mOYDGkoZZ
— Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) September 1, 2020
She requested proxy but was declined because “maternity leave is ineligible” as a COVID risk. Are you kidding me??
— Meena Harris (@meenaharris) September 1, 2020
A MOM WHO SLAYS—@BuffyWicks is a hero to working moms and all working parents. ✊🏼
CA lawmaker Buffy Wicks brought her newborn baby to the Assembly floor after being told she couldn’t vote remotely—during a damn pandemic no less!pic.twitter.com/CRfL3xNWhY
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) September 3, 2020
Nothing is going to keep @BuffyWicks from doing her job, but obviously we need parental leave proxy voting.
— Valerie Jarrett (@ValerieJarrett) September 1, 2020
Congratulations! You are an inspiration to us working moms, and thank you for your service to CA.
— Laura van der Meer (@LLJvanderMeer) September 1, 2020
They should know better than to mess with a mama!
— Kay Campbell (@KayTimes) September 1, 2020
Some day your daughter will show this clip to her friend and wax wet-eyed about the fighter of a public servant she has for a mom. Couldn’t be more appreciative of your leadership this year.
— Louis Mirante (@louismirante) September 1, 2020
Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear nursing ponchos.
— The Dude Resists (@DrJurkowich) September 1, 2020
Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks shouldn’t have had to bring her newborn baby to the CA Assembly floor to cast her vote because #COVID_19 proxy rules didn’t include #maternityleave as a valid excuse. Just a reminder of the many ways that women still don’t get equal treatment. #ERA https://t.co/7bQa0BnUhn
— FrdmFightr (@frdmfightr) September 1, 2020
That is ridiculous! It should’ve been done remotely. Especially if other members were remote!
— Lyn Sims-Nielsen (@redrn666) September 1, 2020
amazing! thank you and I’m sorry. I’m struggling with how i can feel two things so strongly at the same time: so proud (of you) and so disgusted (with whomever made that decision about maternity leave).
— blithechick (@blithechick) September 2, 2020
Super hero status Buffy 💪🏽💪🏽💪🏽, but MORTIFYING to see another wild example of what new moms are up against in the 21st century. This is fvcking not ok….
— Kelsie Stricker (@KelsieStricker) September 2, 2020
Disgusting, inexcusable discrimination. I wish I could say I’m surprised but I’m not. Maternity leave is still perceived as a vacation.
— B L M (@teasandsweets) September 2, 2020
It’s shameful that you were forced to come in in order to vote by Anthony Rendon. I can’t believe he did this. it seems to me he has unnecessarily jeopardized you and your baby for no good reason. You are to be commended for your dedication.
— FtmcWAC (@Ft_mc_WAC) September 2, 2020
You are a rock star mom and my new hero.
Thank you and all women who improvise, adapt, and overcome to make. Sh1t. Happen!!
— RunReady1995er (@ErinMulryan) September 1, 2020
Thank you so much for this! What can be done to change the arcane rules that won’t let you vote by proxy during a pandemic when you have a newborn? This is just shameful. I’m often so proud of our state. This is not one of those times.
— Jenny Wiltse (@JennyWiltse) September 2, 2020
California assembly speaker Anthony Rendon, a fellow Democrat, apologized to Wicks on Tuesday night after a national outcry. “My intention was never to be inconsiderate toward [Wicks], her role as a legislator, or her role as a mother,” Rendon said in a statement.
I want to make a full apology to @asmbuffywicks.
My intention was never to be inconsiderate toward her, her role as a legislator, or her role as a mother.
My full statement is below. pic.twitter.com/ZZcFWt7gI2
— Anthony Rendon (@Rendon63rd) September 2, 2020
Wicks told MSNBC that she was “very concerned about the coronavirus risks”. With her baby in tow, Wicks also cast a deciding yes vote on a California expanded-paid-leave bill: “It’s either ironic or serendipitous,” she added. “Had I not been there, it potentially wouldn’t have passed.”
In 2018, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern made history taking her baby to UN assembly, inspiring working mothers worldwide.