Is Pregnancy a Disability?

Friday, January 06, 2012

New York Medicaid wants women to have access to IUDs immediately after delivering a baby, to help with long-term family planning. (mr. toaster/flickr)

In a presentation to the American Association of Law Schools on Thursday, Jeannette Cox, an associate professor at the University of Dayton School of Law, argued that pregnancy comes with physical limitations on par with conditions now protected under a new amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act. These include the inability to do prolonged lifting, sitting, standing or walking or driving. While some are outraged by the assertion, Cox sees it as a way for women to get more legal protections at their workplace.

Cox joins the program to expand upon her argument. Sharon Lerner, author of "The War on Moms: On Life in a Family Unfriendly Nation" and senior fellow at Demos, frequently writes about reproductive rights. She discusses the consequences of labeling pregnancy a disability.


Jeannette Cox and Sharon Lerner

Comments [8]

James from Brookline

Pregnancy is already considered a legal disability under the law. Employers with paid sick leave benefits are legally required to allow employees to be paid accrued sick leave for pregnancy/maternity because it is considered a disability. However, not all disabilities meet the definition of a qualifying "disability" under the ADA.

Jan. 06 2012 10:00 AM

My pregnancy was very easy, it was after birth that I had challenges. Having a Cesarean changes everything. My recovery was difficult. My husband got no time off which left me alone during the day. Not being able to have help extended my recovery time. I had to go back to work after 5 weeks off because I had used up all my sick time and a week of unpaid leave. I simply couldn't afford to be out of work any longer. My work wouldn't let me work from home and come in part of the day. I was not physically or emotionally ready to be back at work. The pregnant woman is celebrated, but there is very little support in this country. If a woman wants more time, they should be able to have it without penalty. If they want to go back to work early, they should be able to. Men should be able to take enough time to help and bond with the new baby.

I don't think pregnancy should be classified as a disability. I do think there should be better support for pregnant women.

Jan. 06 2012 09:53 AM
Rick Evans from Northeast

Last October a woman named Amber Miller completed the Chicago Marathon, without a wheelchair, then gave birth a few hours later. Pregnancy a disability? Nope.

You can be disabled by pregnancy as is the case when a women develops a disabling condition such as gestational diabetes connected to the pregnancy. However the condition is not a disability.

Jan. 06 2012 09:51 AM

"I love the disabled". That should be the quote of the day.

Jan. 06 2012 09:47 AM
Crystal from Boca raton , fl

I am concerned that some people are immediately afraid of listing this as a disability because they feel that it strikes some black mark on pregnancy. I am concerned because it seems that these people are seeing disabilities as there's is something wrong with someone instead of seeing that there is just something different. A disability should not be viewed this way.

Jan. 06 2012 09:40 AM

If they make pregnancy a disability I will start viewing that "glow" as an icky disease and not as the beautiful effect I like to marvel at.

Florida forces special parking spots on commercial properties. These spots almost always go unused and could be better used for the disabled, and those who pretend to be. The women who make an effort to get the prego-tag always drive large European wagons. You can already imagine the type of people that pushed that statute through the Florida legislature.

Jan. 06 2012 09:16 AM
Susan Lazorchick from Hoboken

While you briefly touched on the subject of women having to take time at the end of their pregnancy and thereby drastically shortening their maternity leave once the baby arrives, you didn't specifically address the topic of BEDREST. When a doctor orders you not to get out of bed save for going to the bathroom otherwise you may harm or even kill yourself and your child/children, how is that not a temporary disability? It's a lot different from being tired of walking (or waddling) to the end of the parking lot and is potentially economically devastating to a family. Further, if a pregnant woman tries to get insurance to hedge against this occurrence, she is either told it is not a disability or the premium is so expensive over the course of the pregnancy that it is often most likely cheaper to ride out the period of bedrest without additional disability insurance. And there is no other form of "pregnancy" insurance that I have been able to find as a single mother expecting twins. While I am sympathetic to the argument that we should not re-stigmatize pregnancy as a disability that prevents all pregnant women from working, there certainly can be and are conditions that arise during pregnancy which are severe physical impediments to women diagnosed with those conditions which prevent them from regularly participating in employment and daily household activities. And as women increasingly put off having children until later in life as a result of enjoying the hard-won benefits and freedoms of the shift in attitudes regarding women in the workplace, pregnancies become statistically riskier with higher possibility for exactly such complications. We can purchase extra insurance coverage to hedge against all sorts of catastrophic events. Try to find a reasonable policy to defray the cost of complicated pregnanies, I challenge you. I'm offered ways to save for retirement from the time I'm employed. I wish that I had been offered a way to voluntarily contribute to an insurance fund that would actually cover me during pregnancy if I had complications. Given the tremendous economic importance of children to our society (driving consumer demand, eventually resupplying the army, and fueling technical innovation) and the fact that we know babies will be born and there will be complicated pregnancies, lack of such protections is discriminatory against pregnant women, whether we classify pregnancy complications as temporary disabilities or not. Though how you can honestly say that a woman is not in a disabled condition when a doctor tells a woman she cannot get out of bed for fear of grave harm or death, I cannot fathom.

Jan. 06 2012 08:38 AM
Ed from Larchmont

If it gives women more comfort while they are pregnant, wonderful, but it's obviously not a disability in the usual sense, as it's also not an illness.

Jan. 06 2012 08:12 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.