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Pregnant Workers Fairness Act values sanctity of life

Originally published Rapid City Journal December 4, 2021

In the midst of swirling media around modernizing abortion law in the United States, we can pause for a moment to set focus on an opportunity to stand up for families and mothers, the unborn, workers, and their employers- the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) currently making its way through the legislative process at the Federal level. In South Dakota, we have the distinguishment of being one of 30 states with laws similar to PWFA, and pregnancy must be treated like any other temporary disability. In our state, a pregnant woman cannot be fired, refused employment, required to take leave, or treated differently as long as she can perform her job duties adequately. In addition, if other employees are given special accommodation when disabled, then a pregnant employee must also. Unfortunately, if this law is not passed at the Federal level, women in 20 other states are left without protection for themselves or their unborn children. Studies conducted by Alexandra Cawthorne and Melissa Alpert in their report, Labor Pains: Improving Employment and Economic Security for Pregnant Women and New Mothers, indicate that three-quarters of women entering the workforce will become pregnant while employed at some point in their lives. Continued studies conducted as recently as 2019 show almost half of working mothers are the primary breadwinners of their families. The United States is facing unprecedented workforce issues, and we need to retain quality employees. This includes supporting working, pregnant mothers. PWFA will extend the Americans with Disabilities Act, providing some of those same reasonable accommodations to pregnant women. The PWFA removes barriers that prevent working women from earning a paycheck, having a healthy baby, and helps them to preserve their own health. It also enables pregnant workers to avoid withdrawing from paid personal leave accounts before the birth of their child. By passing the PWFA, expecting mothers know they can go to work and provide for their families without risking their health, and ultimately the health of their unborn child. The PWFA is also good for business. Employers in those twenty other states have little to no guidelines on supporting expecting mothers. The PWFA creates a clear standard that will genuinely benefit our workplaces and our families nationwide. That is why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among several other organizations representing small and large business, have signed on to support this bill. But, it’s not just businesses and business organizations showing public support. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also signed on to PWFA. This bill puts conservative principles into action. Passing a law that protects the lives of mothers and babies is for anyone who values the sanctity of life at all stages. Pregnancy is temporary. The adjustments necessary to many work environments or duties are short-term and often low-cost, like providing a stool to sit on rather than standing during a shift, allowing a pregnant worker to keep a water bottle by her workstation, or taking more frequent bathroom breaks. Providing accommodations ensures that women can work safely while pregnant instead of losing their job or being forced to use paid leave before their child is born. For anyone who has ever prepared for the arrival of a new child, this is at a time when women may need their income the most. With tremendous bipartisan support, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives 329-73, and 19-2 out of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. I hope that the U.S. Senate will see the significance of this bill and follow suit.

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