Although his time in the White House is coming to an end, President Barack Obama is still pushing to enact progressive legislation. Obama signed the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act—also known as the BABIES Act––on Oct. 7. The BABIES Act requires “diaper-changing facilities in male and female restrooms in public federal buildings such as Social Security offices, courthouses and post offices,” according to CNN. With recent political debate regarding gendered bathrooms, this was a monumental move by Obama and will perhaps play a large role in defining the end of his presidency.
Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline first brought the bill to Congress in April, according to The Huffington Post. Cicilline argued, “No mom or dad should ever have to worry about finding a safe, sanitary place to change their baby—least of all in federal buildings [that are] paid for by taxpayers.”
This progressive bill draws attention to the struggles many men face when simply taking their infants out in public. The BABIES Act successfully illuminates and works to end fathers’ fears regarding being unable to properly tend to their children’s bathroom needs in a private, safe place.
This important issue was previously neglected by politics and the media, but has undeniably caused anxiety for fathers of infants. It is simply appalling to think that before this legislation, public institutions were not mandated to provide child-friendly bathrooms to both mothers and fathers. Although the bill cannot require private businesses to comply, it calls on public places, which, in turn, will hopefully raise standards for all establishments.
Not only does this bill alleviate apprehension about children’s bathroom needs, but it also helps to keep infants safe. Due to the lack of proper changing stations in men’s bathrooms, many fathers have been forced to use unconventional surfaces to change their children. Cicilline argued that this was both unsafe for the child being changed, but also for the rest of the public who would use the restroom in the future.
Actor and father Ashton Kutcher was one of the main supporters that helped evoke this legislative change. Kutcher “famously lamented the lack of changing tables in men’s restrooms and launched a Change.org campaign to call for businesses to implement them,” as noted by The Huffington Post.
Kutcher also claimed that this lack of childcare equality in bathrooms was indicative of society’s sexist views on parenting. In the 21st century, it is imperative that public places acknowledge the positive ways in which parenting has evolved. Women are no longer the sole gender caring for children; in fact, some children do not even have mothers.
Kutcher makes a strong claim by pointing out that, “Dads, like myself, want to participate equally in the child care process, and our society should support that.”
Obama’s signing of the BABIES Act is a monumental victory for all fathers and for all current and prospective parents. This legislation is a commendable step toward fighting the social insensitivity to the evolution of parenting. The bill has also created opportunities for continued conversation regarding changing the way society improperly views parenting as a strictly female duty.u