Banning Very Pregnant Women From Air Travel Is 'Harmful Gender Stereotyping': WHAT?

Say What!? 20

According to a New Zealand gender researcher, the practice of airlines banning late-term pregnant women from flying has very little to do with public safety. Associate professor Annick Masselot says that the reality is that airlines have no scientific reason to limit a pregnant woman's freedom to travel by air, and in fact, it's not only an invasion of a woman's privacy to ask personal medical questions before granting access to a plane -- it's a form of gender discrimination. Masselot says airlines that impose pregnancy guidelines are furthering "harmful gender and cultural stereotypes" and may even be breaking the law.

Gosh, what great news for anyone nearing the end of their pregnancy! Don't you want to exercise your God-given right to lumber onto a plane where you'll be hideously uncomfortable and without medical attention for hours at a time? Because nothing says feminism like doing something incredibly stupid.

Okay, fine, I'm not actually saying that you're incredibly stupid if you get on a cross-country flight when you're 39 weeks pregnant. I'm saying that you're a bad decision maker with poor reasoning skills and that's exactly why airlines have regulations that help reduce the chances that you'll give birth on the drink cart.

In her report on fighting pregnancy- and maternity-related discrimination, Masselot says "pregnancy is not a form of illness," and as such, no pregnant woman should have to answer medical questions or adhere to a flying ban:

There should not be any reason to request a medical certificate or refuse women to board a plane based on pregnancy. There is no reason to impose such conditions on pregnant women when passengers who might suffer from, for example, high blood pressure or heart problems are not requested to provide any evidence of their ability to fly. (...) People do not question refusal to fly conditions because of the existence of widespread and deeply ingrained gender stereotypes. These stereotypes are harmful because women who are pregnant have their right to move limited by airlines for no scientific reason. It is arguably a form of control over women in order to limit the potential inconvenience of dealing with a woman going into labor in a plane.

Oh, airlines just want to "limit the potential inconvenience'' of a woman going into labor? Well, DUH. Of course they want to limit the inconvenience of someone giving birth at 30,000 feet, just like they probably want to limit the inconvenience of other unwanted outcomes, such as running out of those shitty little cans of tomato juice every air traveler inexplicably asks for, or crashing the plane directly into a mountain.

And give me a GIANT POLITICALLY CORRECT BREAK on whining about how people with heart problems don't have to suffer the same emotionally damaging discrimination. How someone could take a perfectly reasonable health regulation -- please don't fly with us if your fetus is full term and could easily make a surprise howdy-do -- and turn it into a "harmful gender stereotype" is beyond me.

Every passenger has the potential to experience some sort of in-flight emergency, and no one can create enough rules that eliminate every single theoretical disaster. But common sense dictates that certain conditions require medical advice and/or clearance. Pregnancy isn't an illness, but flight attendants aren't doulas and planes aren't equipped for emergency C-sections. Airlines have the right to refuse carriage for any NUMBER of reasons (item 7.1.8 from Virgin Airlines: "Your mental or physical state represents a likely source of material annoyance or discomfort to other passengers"), and extreme pregnancy is a totally understandable reason for a business to say, "No offense, but we don't want the responsibility."

I have to wonder, of all the gender battles to take on, why pick this one? Honestly, is this REALLY a problem? Or am I just unable to get enraged about the practice of banning late-pregnancy women from flying because I'm the misogynistic product of a patriarchy-dominant society?

What do you think? Should all airline guidelines regarding pregnant women be dropped?


Image via Mike Liu/Flickr

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Laura Palmer

This reminds me of the scene from "Away We Go" when the forced Maya Rudolph's character to ride the train.

LostS... LostSoul88

Sorry if I was close to my due date I will not fly because of fear I would go into labor.  i will never risk my health or the life of my unborn baby.

Craft... CraftyJenna

Bad choice or not it is discrimination. Flight attendants aren't equiped to handle heart attacks or the bends either but it happens. I think she's right and people like you are just part of the problem excusing a system that discriminates against women because pregnancy shows and other health conditions don't. 

Allis... AllisonWD

You can't possible compare heart attacks to giving birth. No dr says what date you're going to have a heart attack but they will give you a due date for your child. Don't be stupid.

hexxuss hexxuss

My mother, who is FAR MORE qualified to comment on this than airlines or even pregnant women (she spent her entire career - over 35 years - as an OB-GYN Certified Nurse - aka: she knows babies & pregnant bodies better than the pregnant bodied know themselves) has stated to me on more than one occassion to not make ANY travel plans during the last month of a pregnancy, especially in a plane.  There are several reasons why too - just google the Mayo clinic's thoughts on it.  You also need to consider females in high risk pregnancies who refuse to believe they are high risk - I've seen ALL too many of them.

Sarah... SarahHall58

People just want a reason to complain. And actually flight attendants must be certified in CPR and other first aid operations. So actually they are more qualified to handle a heart attack than a birth. Please I don't want my flight diverted because someone who's super pregnant with no common sense decided she wanted to fly and give birth on the plane. If you're a responsible soon to be parent would you even want to risk going into labor where medial attention is frighteningly far away. That baby could die before ever even seeing the ground much less a hospitals. Morons.

sassy... sassykat122

Who would remotely WANT to get on a plane when in the last couple months of pregnancy? At that point it may be your body but it is a VIABLE child and risking not being near medical help for the child is neglect

Andre... Andreamom001

It's not gender discrimination.  I had a homebirth and know that the vast majority of births ar enot dangerous--still, if a complication arises, where is help?  By the time they manage to land the plane and get mom to a hospital, mom or baby or both could be dead or seriously injured.  Even if baby is safely born on board the plane, then there's a mom who just gave birth and a newborn baby on a plane!  Birth is a messy business, too.  There are TWO lives involed with a pregnant woman.


Chances are, if the flight is short, mom won't give birth on the plane, but if millions of prenenat moms start flying...oen day it will happen. 


To call it gender discrimination is ABSURD!

nonmember avatar Anowscara

This lady is entitled to think whatever she wants, but I sure wonder how many actual OB's she talked to before issuing a statement like this. When a large group of OB's start telling airlines they should let very pregnant women fly, that's when the airlines should think about listening.

By the way, cruise contracts are even more restrictive about pregnancy than airlines, even though there's no pressurized cabin and there's a (supposedly qualified) doctor on board.

nonmember avatar Amanda

Wow, craftyjenna-do you just look for reasons to be offended? This is simple common sense and good judgement-not yet ANOTHER excuse to be overly sensitive.

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