Pregnancy Shouldn't Be Called a Disability

We've talked about stork parking on a few occasions here at The Stir, and I think many of us have agreed that while there are definitely times when it's nice to have some special accommodations during pregnancy, for the majority of women, it's not really necessary.

According to a law professor at the University of Dayton, however, all employers should treat pregnant women exactly as though they had a disabling medical condition. In fact, the idea is to expand the Americans With Disabilities Act to include pregnant women.

Never mind stork parking—under a revamped ADA, pregnant ladies might be able to pull right up to the handicapped spots.


The intent behind this proposal is to improve job security by requiring businesses to adhere to the ADA when it comes to pregnant employees. Meaning, they'd be legally bound to accommodate pregnant workers in a variety of ways, like providing more bathroom breaks and allowing them to drink water on the job.

It sounds a little insane to think there are businesses that don't let their employees stay hydrated, but I can see how in some circumstances a pregnant woman wouldn't be allowed to keep a bottle of water nearby. Retail jobs, for instance, typically frown on their employees guzzling from a giant Nalgene while helping customers.

So it's interesting to consider whether or not a typical pregnancy is really a disability. Obviously in some cases, there are medical conditions brought on by pregnancy, but is pregnancy itself an impairment? After all, the ADA defines a disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual."

When I was pregnant, I was definitely limited from my normal life activities of, say, wearing a non-elastic waistband or breathing through my nose without evoking the wistful sound of a migrating Canada goose, but there's no way I would have called myself disabled.

Then again, I had a pretty mellow office job where I could drink and pee all I wanted.

What's really bizarre about this whole thing is that it seems to go against the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. While both are intended to protect women's jobs, the Pregnancy Act requires employers to treat pregnant women the same as all other employees. Now here's a professor saying wait, no, treat them differently, because every pregnancy comes with physiological limitations.

It seems well-intentioned ... and also like one hell of a slippery slope. For most of us, pregnancy is a normal, healthy condition, not a disability. If a pregnant women develops a disabling condition, that's one thing, but labeling every pregnancy as a physical impairment seems like the wrong thing to do.

What's your take on the idea that the ADA should be expanded to include pregnancy?

Image via ADA

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