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Why Are Bosses--And Lawmakers--Mistreating Pregnant Women?

When pregnancy comes up as a political issue, lawmakers are far more fixated on what an expecting mom's womb is doing, rather than how she's managing to pay the bills.

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Losing work a double-blow for pregnant women who need to prepare financially for a new member of the household. Even if they're not outright fired, Crawford  points out, "some employers force pregnant workers into unpaid leave prematurely, which means that women are forced to take a heavy financial hit just as they are about to give birth."

Moreover, if a pregnant woman is unfairly fired, she may have trouble  simply getting hired as a new mom, which some employers may see as a liability. (Not to mention  affording quality child care so she can hold onto that new job).

The National Partnership also  notes major health implications for women who lose a job during pregnancy, and for their babies: The stress incurred may raise “the risk of having a premature baby and/or a baby with low birth weight." If she can earn more before having the baby, she can potentially take more time off for maternity leave--meaning more time for bonding, breastfeeding and other essential nurturing tasks for parents that our labor structure tends to ignore.

Ironically, companies themselves suffer when they arbitrarily dismiss workers for pregnancy or childbirth-related reasons, because high workforce turnover is counterproductive in the long run.

Yet many workplaces still make women bear the brunt of the cost of childbearing. So next time you graciously offer your bus seat to a pregnant woman, just think about how our politicians fail to stand up for the labor rights of those who do the work of bringing us into the world.

 
Michelle Chen is a contributing editor to In These Times and a regular contributor to the labor rights blog Working In These Times, Colorlines.com and Pacifica’s WBAI. Follow her on Twitter at @meeshellchen or reach her at michellechen @ inthesetimes.com.
 
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