Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: GOP Opposes It, Exposing Hypocrisy Of Pro-Life Movement

Women make up half the workforce today, and most will be pregnant at some point during their employment. But although the Republican Party scoffs at a woman’s duty to keep her baby, as opposed to Democrats who generally advocate for a woman’s right to choose, pro-life conservatives are unwilling to ensure that pregnant women are treated fairly in the workplace. The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) revealed the stories of pregnant women who were denied minor pregnancy-related adjustments to their job duties in order to put the spotlight on The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) which was introduced last September by Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.). Opposition to the bill from Republicans has many questioning the integrity of the pro-life movement, wondering how a claim to value the life and health of an unborn child can correspond with a disregard for the mother’s.

According to the NWLC report, women felt that they were being punished for being pregnant. In the cases accounted for, pregnant women were either denied permission to job modifications, forced on unpaid leave, or fired. Most asked to be exempt from excessive physical activity, like lifting heavy baggage or being on foot for too long such as the case of an airline ticket agent in Louisiana. This woman was told that she’d immediately be placed on unpaid leave if she provided a doctor’s note requiring work restrictions. So instead, in order to support her family, she continued to work on her feet for 10 to 12 hours a day and repeatedly bore the weight of heavy baggage off the belt. As a result, she developed a condition called stress-induced toxemia, which put her in labor prematurely and caused her child to suffer from numerous health complications.

Accommodations are often granted to workers unable to exercise their full duty for reasons other than pregnancy, but employers seem to view pregnancy as a guise for hooky. This could be because it’s perceived by flawed logic as a woman’s choice to become pregnant. But while pregnancy isn't exactly a disability, it still changes and burdens the body of a woman enough to allow basic and temporary adjustments to their jobs. Women are nevertheless protected in the workplace under the 1979 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, but The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would better avoid health and economic consequences for both parties. Women could work longer and more productively while still providing for their families and contributing to the economy, while employers could avoid the expense of recruiting, hiring, and training for their replacement.

With the Democrats in support of a bill that supposedly aligns with conservative ideology, Republicans are being exposed as anti-feminists with a desire to control women. Far-right beliefs dominate much of conservative political thought in America, wishing to perform a timeless function. But unlike religion, political processes don’t function around one unchanging story of cemented principles, generally dismissive of revelations that come with growth and maturity over time. Our story must be amended consecutively when things like liberty or security come into question, and decisions should be made considering the demands of a given place and time. Republican reluctance to pass The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is hypocritical in the development of a free society, as well as threatening to the health and safety of the population.

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Kiki Van Son

Kiki is a student at New York University and a contributing writer at NAKED Mag and iVillage.

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