Pregnant Women Shouldn't Be 'Disabled' to Get Special Treatment​

pregnant womanPregnancy is an incredible time in our lives -- we have created life! It's a beautifully powerful experience, but within this awe-inspiring time, we are often given a "disabled" label. It's thrown at us, forced upon us in order to get maternity leave, to gain so-called special treatment at work. There is a Supreme Court case being decided upon regarding a "disabled" pregnant woman right now that we all need to pay attention to. It could change everything.


When UPS worker Peggy Young got pregnant in 2006, she never expected to lose her job and health insurance. Young asked to be put in a position that doesn't require her to lift 70 pounds; they refused. She didn't want to be on disability -- she wanted to work, just in a different capacity. UPS said no. She was coded as disabled but didn't get any disability benefits because she was healthy. What resulted was six months of unpaid leave and no health insurance. She sued and lost in two courts, and now Young v. United Parcel Service is in the hands of the Supreme Court.

It all begs the questions: Are pregnant women disabled? Should there be another word when giving pregnant women job protection rights? This isn't just about Peggy Young. This ruling could affect any working woman who gets pregnant.

A pregnant woman is not disabled -- she is pregnant. Women, with our reproductive organs, are the only ones able to gestate and give birth to children. Being pregnant makes us more able in ways -- the disability tag doesn't fit even though we are less able to do certain things.

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The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) "forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment."

But it still mentions a "leave without pay" in some cases if there is a pregnancy-related "disability." There are conditions that could arise during pregnancy that could make a woman temporarily disabled, but they are rare. Every woman's pregnancy is different. Some of us run up until we give birth. Others end up on bed rest. We have side effects and complications. Sometimes it's just that we lose our ability to touch our toes.

We have become very cold as a society when it comes to caring for others. Pregnancy is temporary. Companies, the government, society need to work together to show human decency and respect to pregnant women and new parents and babies.

If we label a pregnant woman as disabled, she isn't entitled to the same benefits as a person who is really disabled, so why give pregnant women that label at all? We deserve our own.

The government needs to step up and show they care about our future by caring about pregnant women, by making new laws to protect women's jobs during their pregnancy. Solid laws. Laws that make sense so that all companies know how to implement them, and pregnant women are protected. We dedicate hours, years, time away from family to work at our jobs -- there should be a level of trust; it should be reciprocal. But it's not.

We see cases like this too often -- mothers, pregnant women, all women being treated like a throw-away employee because of a family situation. Men, whose wives are pregnant, don't have to face this at work because they are physically unable to bear children. Women are able. And here we are in 2014 living in a society who seems to want women unemployed, barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, making sure dinner is hot when her husband gets home.

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We still live in a country where we are paid less than men for the same job. We have to continue to speak up to make a change, to gain rights. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act needs to be expanded to protect us. Our pathetic maternity leave isn't helping either. In order to even get maternity leave (often six to eight weeks if we are lucky), we have to apply for short-term disability. And even if we are granted paid maternity leave (only 12 percent of workers reported maternity leave according to last year's statistic), it's a stark contrast to the UK, who gives 39 weeks of paid leave. We are the only developed country in the world to not guarantee mothers leave. We can lose our jobs because of motherhood.

I want more rights for women -- we deserve them. What we don't need is more labels.

How do you feel about the disability label for pregnant women?


Image via Phalinn Ooi/Flickr

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