Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in the Senate, and Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Susan Davis (D-CA), and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) in the House, have re-introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in the new Congress. PWFA would require companies to provide pregnant employees with the same types of accommodations that are required for disabled workers under the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to Casey’s office:

Currently, pregnant working women around the country are being denied simple adjustments – permission to use a stool while working a cash register, or to carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated, or temporary reassignment to lighter duty tasks – that would keep them working and supporting their families while maintaining healthy pregnancies. The legislation will close legal loopholes and ensure that pregnant women are treated fairly on the job.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will accomplish this by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and preventing employers from forcing women out on leave when another reasonable accommodation would allow them to continue working. The bill also bars employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

In recent and startling examples, Amy Crosby, a hospital cleaner in Tallahassee, Florida, was forced into unpaid leave from her job when the hospital refused to accommodate her doctor’s request that she not lift more than 20 pounds because of her pregnancy; Heather Wiseman, a retail worker in Salina, Kansas, was fired because she needed to carry a water bottle to stay hydrated and prevent bladder infections; and Victoria Serednyj, an activity director at a nursing home in Valparaiso, Indiana, was terminated because she required help with some physically strenuous aspects of her job to prevent having another miscarriage. For the well-being of pregnant workers, and for the sake of the economic stability of American families, our laws must be updated and clarified.

The National Women’s Law Center has more information in their PWFA factsheet.

Preventing pregnant mothers from having to choose between the jobs they need to provide for their families on one hand, and their own health and the health of their unborn children on the other, is pro-life. If you agree and you are in the U.S., please contact your Senators and Representatives to ask them to cosponsor the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 1975 in the House and S. 942 in the Senate).

Here are some talking points you can use in your email and phone call:

  • Women make up about half of the U.S. workforce. Two-thirds of women who had their first child between 2006 and 2008 worked during their pregnancies. Workers are not machines to be shaped to suit jobs — we are people who deserve to have our needs accommodated.
  • The PWFA relies on a reasonable accommodation framework already familiar to employers accustomed to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Most of the required accomodations are small and inexpensive for the employer — such as allowing employees to use a stool instead of standing or to have a water bottle with them as they work — but they can make a huge difference for the employee and her child.
  • If your Representative or Senator identifies as pro-life, remind them that they would be helping to protect the lives and health of unborn children as well as their mothers.

Please let us know how your call goes, or if you get a response to your email!

Starting today, people in the U.S. who need health insurance can go to healthcare.gov to enroll in a plan through their states’ new exchanges.

There’s a lot for pro-lifers to love about health insurance reform. All plans offered on the exchanges must cover prenatal care, delivery, and care for mother and baby after birth. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, most individual insurance plans didn’t cover maternity care, and women who were already pregnant often couldn’t get insurance at all.

In addition to the reform of maternity care coverage, the ACA requires insurance plans to cover a number of preventive services with no cost-sharing. These include, but are definitely not limited to:

Having these vital preventive services available without a co-payment will help more women and children live healthy lives as well as making it easier for women to avoid unintended pregnancy and abortion.

* These are currently required to be covered for women but should be available without cost-sharing to everyone, in my opinion.

The Institute of Medicine has issued its recommendations for a range of preventive health services that it says should be covered for all U.S. women without a co-pay under the Affordable Care Act. Several of these recommendations improve not only women's health, but that of their children as well.

The eight recommendations include:

  • screening for gestational diabetes
  • HPV testing as part of cervical cancer screening for women over 30
  • counseling on sexually transmitted infections
  • counseling and screening for HIV
  • contraceptive methods and counseling to prevent unintended pregnancies
  • lactation counseling and equipment to promote breast-feeding
  • screening and counseling to detect and prevent interpersonal and domestic violence
  • yearly well-woman preventive care visits to obtain recommended preventive services

The recommendations will now go to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is scheduled to issue the final rule for insurers in August.

The report will be discussed Wednesday, July 20, at a public briefing beginning at 10 a.m. EDT at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. A live audio webcast of the briefing will be available at www.nationalacademies.org if you would like to listen.

I received the following action alert from the Consistent Life email newsletter today:

Subscriber Mary Grace sends in this note from the United Farm Workers union: “Cesar Chavez said farm workers are society’s canaries because they show the effects of pesticide poisoning before anyone else. The State of California has recently certified a highly dangerous pesticide, methyl iodide, for use on fruits and vegetables, including the state’s $1.6 billion strawberry industry. Strawberries may very well become the new poster child for plaguing farm workers with cancer and late-term miscarriages.” We have here another case where poverty is lethal because the very lives of unborn children in immediate danger aren’t taken seriously by those running large corporations. UFW has an online petition against this.

The UFW has a petition you can sign to tell the EPA not to approve methyl iodide. The comment period ends today, so please act quickly!

In 2008 alone, something prevented an estimated 112.3 million abortions and 21.9 million miscarriages, and saved the lives of 1.17 million newborns and 230,000 mothers globally.

What is it?

Surely, one would imagine, it's something that groups who call themselves prolife would be all over themselves to promote.

One would imagine, unfortunately.

Because that something is: modern, voluntary contraception.

And most anti abortion groups are all over themselves to actively undermine it, or to profess "neutrality" on the subject.

When really, how can anyone be "neutral" about anything that spares women and babies so much misery and death?

Don't believe those statistics? They are here for all the world to see.

This Alternet article highlights an important report from the Southern Poverty Law Center on the exploitation of immigrant women in the U.S. food industry. Of particular interest to reproductive peace activists is Section 3, entitled "Sexual Violence: A Constant Menace." The SPLC found that:

  • In a recent study of 150 women of Mexican descent working in the fields in California’s Central Valley, 80% said they had experienced sexual harassment. That compares to roughly half of all women in the U.S. workforce who say they have experienced at least one incident.
  • While investigating the sexual harassment of California farmworker women in the mid-1990s, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that “hundreds, if not thousands, of women had to have sex with supervisors to get or keep jobs and/or put up with a constant barrage of grabbing and touching and propositions for sex by supervisors.”
  •  A 1989 article in Florida indicates that sexual harassment against farmworker women was so pervasive that women referred to the fields as the “green motel.” Similarly, the EEOC reports that women in California refer to the fields as “fil de calzon,” or the fields of panties, because sexual harassment is so widespread.
  •  Due to the many obstacles that confront farmworker women — including fear, shame, lack of information about their rights, lack of available resources to help them, poverty, cultural and/or social pressures, language access and, for some, their status as undocumented immigrants — few farmworker women ever come forward to seek justice for the sexual harassment and assault that they have suffered.
  •  In interviews for this report, virtually all women reported that sexual violence in the workplace is a serious problem.

Poverty and undocumented status leave these women vulnerable to sexual abuse that they can neither refuse nor report without facing harsh reprisals.

The report also found that farmworkers are exposed to such high doses of pesticides that their health — and, if they are preganant, the health of their unborn children — is at serious risk. Within a seven-week period in late 2004, three children with severe birth defects were born to women who worked in the tomato fields of a single grower.

What can you do? The Alternet article recommends several steps that individuals can take:

But as both Alternet and the SPLC point out, individual actions aren't going to be enough. We need public policy that protects workers from abuse regardless of their immigration status. SPLC has specific recommendations, including bill numbers in some cases. If you live in the United States, please help stop the abuse of the women who help supply your food.

The UK's Department for International Development is conducting a survey on reproductive, maternal, and newborn health priorities.

People from around the world, and especially from developing nations, are encouraged to participate.  This is an opportunity for reproductive peace activists to show support for all nonviolent reproductive choices for women.

Millions of girl children worldwide are forced into marriage. They are highly vulnerable to rape, battery, HIV/AIDS infection, and the complications of too-soon pregnancy. They lose out on their dreams of education, work, and family happiness. Please urge the US to take a stand against child marriage: http://www.thechildhealthsite.com/clickToGive/campaign.faces?siteId=5&campaign=StopChildMarriage

At Conversations for a Better World, a multivoiced blog sponsored by UNFPA, an All Our Lives cofounder defends guaranteed maternity care as a universal human right: It Affects Us All: Maternal Healthcare