The issue of maternity leave has always been a quandary for me. How do you reconcile a working, childbearing woman's family obligations with the obligations she has to her employer? There is no single answer, but some amount of maternity leave that doesn't harm her standing in the company may be part of the solution.
Twenty weeks of mandatory paid leave is not the answer, however. I can just see it now: A newly-married, late-twentysomething woman walks into a job interview, and a man in a similar state of life applies for the same gig. Why hire someone who you could be forced to pay, for over four months, while they produce nothing for the company?
Here's what the government needs to do: stay out of it. Let women work their way up the corporate ladder by using the marketplace as a guide. Coping with the realities of the workplace and the realities of your home life are some of the hardest issues men and women ever deal with. But mandating leave prohibits any other number of normal family-care solutions from happening organically, such as men staying home, women working part-time, childbearing couples moving closer to other family who can care for their offspring, child-care co-op arrangements, day care, or simply making the hard choice not to work for a while.