Working mothers and numerous advocacy groups from across the nation recently stood on Capitol Hill to promote the urgent need for the passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), legislation outlined to protect the physical needs and bandwidth of working pregnant mothers and postpartum workers while on their jobs.
While women across the nation work to provide the needs and livelihood of their children, the workforce falls short in nurturing the critical health needs of working mothers for the safety of themselves and their unborn children.
Many organizations including A Better Balance, March of Dimes and American Civil Liberties Union spoke in conjunction with members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The advocates emphasizing the need for the legislation echoed the painful peril mothers face in having to choose between economic stability and maintaining proper health during their pregnancies.
“I’m currently pregnant and expecting my second child. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my health and our family’s finances. It’s truly a joyous time that should never be spent stressing about where your next meal will come from or whether you’ll have to put your health on the line to keep your job,” said A Better Balance Community Advocate Takirah Woods. “The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a solution that Black women like me are counting on so we are able to thrive and are not held back by discrimination.”
The bill passed the House of Representatives scoring over 300 votes, along with 60 additional votes needed to solidify Senate passage. Working people, businesses and voters have congregated in support of the PWFA, as its passage will hold workplaces accountable to provide more fair working conditions, keep more women employed, and help dismantle the factors contributing to the Black maternal health crisis.
If passed, the PWFA would provide support in federal law that will guarantee reasonable accommodations for pregnant and postpartum workers for the better health of themselves and their unborn babies. Many mothers are struck with the daunting load of having to financially provide for their families despite carrying children, often forcing their hands to choose between obliging poor work conditions for the sake of their economic security or abiding by their body’s need to maintain a healthy pregnancy, a safe recovery from childbirth, and even the ability to pump at work.
While everyday physical activities or even exercise can promote a healthy pregnancy for expecting mothers, physical demands at work, similar to; standing for long periods, lifting heavy objects, and repeatedly bending at the waist, can significantly increase a woman’s chances of, miscarriage, preterm birth or injury while pregnant.
Proper precautions suggested by the Mayo Clinic to prevent potential risks during pregnancy include: exposure to harmful substances, heavy lifting, climbing or carrying, extreme temperatures and excessive noise.
Considering the numerous amount of women, particularly of Black and Latino nationalities, who are overrepresented in essential, frontline jobs including restaurant workers, childcare providers, teachers and healthcare workers to name a few, the basic accommodations of available seating, or extra bathroom breaks can make all the difference between a healthy pregnancy and potentially life-threatening complications. National efforts continue to bring PWFA into fruition as there remains a heavy push in having the bill passed by the end of the 2022 year before any congressional seat changes could potentially crush its chances.
“This bill can happen. We know that millions of women in this country have been struggling to support themselves and their families. We need to keep people who are pregnant and on the job healthy,” said President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center Fatima Goss Graves.