Jane Kassim overcame huge obstacles to become a mother, but now she is facing a new challenge. The teaching assistant from South Yorkshire, U.K. has been denied paid maternity leave because she used a surrogate.
Kassim learned at age 15 that she would never be able to become pregnant because she was born without a womb. Her cousin Amy Bellamy volunteered to help last year after finding out that Kassim, now 30, and her husband Adis wanted to become parents. Bellamy agreed to be their surrogate, The Telegraph reports.
Bellamy gave birth to twins Isla Jane and Ivy May last month. Now, their biological mother is embroiled in a fight to change surrogacy rights.
According to the Telegraph, Kassim has only been offered 13 weeks of unpaid leave -– most mothers in the U.K. are entitled to 52 weeks (one whole year). "Under current law people like me don't have the maternity rights that mothers who give birth themselves or women who adopt are entitled to," she told the paper.
John Healey, a member of Parliament, has taken on Kassim's case and is trying to find a "legal loophole" for all mothers who use surrogates. Healey introduced a new bill under the "Ten Minute Rule" (a process used that enables members to introduce legislation in Parliament), "which calls for appropriate leave, pay and allowance arrangements for those parents." And according to the Mirror, Kassim is pushing an e-petition for the law to be changed that has over 1,400 signatures.
A spokesman for Rotherham Council is actually on board with the campaign. "Clearly we would welcome any changes to legislation which would benefit families and children," he said. Earlier this year, the BBC reported that new paternity leave rules in the U.K. entitle parents to six months off work (each) with compensation and the government hopes the system will be in full effect by 2015.
And while British leave laws have yet to extend to moms who use surrogates, in general, the U.K. remains far more advanced than the U.S. when it comes to maternity leave policy -- currently, American moms are only eligible for six weeks of paid leave. But because of various nuances and rules about companies that are exempt from the law, only about half of women are guaranteed that time.
Recently, the National Center for Children in Poverty has recommended that policymakers allow U.S. mothers at least 14 weeks paid leave. According to Mommyish.com, "The NCCP maintains that at present, six weeks is simply not enough to maintain breastfeeding and develop a bond with baby."
Their reasoning is precisely why Kassim is fighting. "You need time to bond with your children," she said.