Last week the Huffington Post ran an article titled, “Pregnancy As Disability: Professor Wants Coverage Under American With Disabilities Act.” The article, written by Jeannette Cox, a law professor at the University of Dayton (Ohio), focuses on Cox’s argument that “”pregnant workers currently have less legal standing” than people with comparable limitations,” and therefore pregnancy should be protected under the ADA. Cox’s argument sounds pretty reasonable, but after giving it further thought and posting the link on the STFU, Parents Facebook page, several other factors worth considering came to mind.
First, many STFU, Parents readers pointed out that pregnancy is a condition one (usually) has by choice, and a disability is often something a person must involuntarily live with forever. That distinction alone is hard for many people to swallow when considering labeling pregnancy as a “disability.” But beyond that, many people (including dozens of pregnant women and moms) noted that women are already protected if they have complications resulting from pregnancy, so this “temporary” disability claim isn’t really necessary (and is actually a little insulting). However, I think it’s fair to say that Cox’s push for this disability status has more to do with employers who treat their pregnant employees badly, and her main interest is to ensure job security.
What all of this tells me is that there are many sides to this argument, and all are worth acknowledging. Yes, Cox’s hypothetical solution to the employer problem has women’s best interests in mind, but it could bring about a slew of other issues, as well. For me personally, the potential problems that came to mind have more to do with subjects I’ve read about in STFUP submissions.
As we saw last week, sometimes moms are not particularly sensitive to “old people,” and based on prior posts on my blog along with current submissions, they’re not always especially understanding of the needs of handicapped people, either. In fact, while I’m not saying Cox’s idea of ADA protection is a bad idea, I’d propose that some women would actually abuse their rights as a “temporarily disabled” person both during and after pregnancy. Some already do, minus the official status recognition.
Here are a few examples:
1. Bathroom Stall Expectations
This is an ongoing debate that seemingly has no resolution. Technically the large bathroom stalls are for people with disabilities who need extra space to maneuver in the stall, be it because of a walker, a wheelchair or some other reason. Any mom knows that those stalls are the ideal stalls to use whether you have a baby in a giant stroller or an older toddler who still needs a little help. BUT, that being said, mothers are not entitled to using those stalls, because they are not in fact handicapped. This presents a problem when a person who has no kids and no disability walks out of the handicapped stall after a mother has been waiting with her child and becomes irate.
Don’t believe it can happen? Oh, it can. This is an email I received last week ago from a reader:
I have to say, I’d have done the same as Kristin. What else can you do but laugh off a person who’s yelling at you for taking up a handicapped stall when that person has no disability? Whether the person is trying to get to the changing table, park her stroller, or just help her son use the toilet, the only real solution for parents is to – gasp! – wait their turn. But my question is, if a woman gets labeled as having a temporary disability because she’s pregnant, would she have automatic and immediate access to these stalls? And how would that access play out once she’s had the baby and now has a stroller to contend with (but no “disability”)? Something tells me scenes like the one Kristin described could become much more common.
2. Hockey Game Expectations
I don’t know who Stephanie’s friends are, but I’m impressed with the way they speak up in this thread. I think this is an accurate example of the way many women feel about motherhood, and also a great example of why labeling pregnancy as a disability could be a bad thing. After all, if you’re told you have a temporary disability for nine long months of pregnancy, it could be hard to go back to thinking that you’re just an “average person” who can’t claim the same rights as a disabled person once the baby is born. That may sound ridiculous, but clearly some mothers equate their post-pregnancy struggles with those of a disabled person, so it’s something worth discussing.
3. Expectant and New Mother Parking
I don’t know that it’s a law that pregnant women can cut to the front of any line in Paris, but it’s certainly a fact that France is rated as having some of the best health care in the world. There’s no doubt in my mind that if pregnant women were treated the same in the US as they are in a country like France, I might not even be writing this article. But unfortunately that isn’t the case, so instead of receiving the health care we deserve, pregnant women and mothers cling to the things that make their lives easier, like “special” parking rights at stores and malls. These parking spaces are a hotly debated subject on STFU, Parents and might even warrant their own column someday. But for now, the main issue lies in the fact that: A) Some women believe there should be far more of these spaces (and some even think there should be more expectant mother spaces than handicapped spaces), and B) People become outraged when someone who isn’t a parent (or doesn’t have a child with them) parks in one of the spaces.
I happen to like it when a parent tackles such a conflict with a sense of humor:
Remember, moms: Whether pregnancy will one day fall under ADA or not, if you’re not actually having a rough pregnancy, and you don’t actually suffer from a disability, you’re the same as everyone else. You may be a superhero to some, but to the person using the handicapped stall in the bathroom, and the person parking at the grocery store, and the usher working at the Metro Center, you’re just another lady with a baby.