Doctors Aren’t Dummies: Support the Patient Trust Act

By Kate Michelman, WomenVote PA and Susan Frietsche, WLP Senior Staff Attorney

Doctors aren’t dummies.

They don’t need politicians to tell them what they can and can’t say to patients, or how to administer tests and treatments.

On September 8, the House Democratic Policy Committee convened to explore the need to pass the Patient Trust Act in Pennsylvania. Physicians, medical ethics experts, and patient advocates met in Pittsburgh to discuss the dangers patients face when medical care becomes politicized.

Introduced by Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) and Senator Mike Stack (D-Phila) in July, the Patient Trust Act is part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health, a pro-active, pro-choice package of bills developed by the bipartisan Women’s Health Caucus in the Pennsylvania Legislature.

The Patient Trust Act protects patients. It says that politicians have no business putting words that are “not medically accurate and appropriate for the patient” into the mouths of doctors.

Since antiquity, physicians have taken an oath to treat patients to the best of their ability, with knowledge rooted in clinical experience and scientific consensus. But in recent years, politicians have made it difficult — and in some cases even illegal — for doctors to keep that sacred obligation.

These government-intrusion laws run the gamut from prohibitions on discussing gun storage safety with patients to gag orders preventing doctors from naming the toxic chemicals that are poisoning a patient’s body. A significant number of these government-intrusion laws are proposed by lawmakers trying to disguise their opposition to contraception and abortion by disingenuously claiming that these laws promote women’s health and safety.

Recently, the National Partnership for Women and Families released a report that explored the nationwide spike in laws that command doctors what to say and coerce them to administer — and bill patients for — medically unnecessary procedures.

Bad Medicine: How a Political Agenda is Undermining Women’s Health found that the majority of states — 35 in all — have passed such laws. In many cases, the information doctors are forced to give patients is not even medically and scientifically accurate.

The report’s authors concluded that “anti-choice laws are requiring health care providers to choose between following their medical training and their ethical obligations to their patients — and following the law.”

From the Bad Medicine report:

*Five states force doctors to tell patients of a false link between abortion and breast cancer.

*Five states force doctors to falsely advise a patient that an abortion will affect her future fertility.

*Eight states force doctors to provide misinformation that falsely indicates the only possible emotional response to abortion is negative.

*Twelve states force doctors to provide unfounded information that fetuses can feel pain, despite lack of scientific evidence.

In 2012, anti-choice Pennsylvania lawmakers proposed mandating that doctors perform medically unnecessary ultrasounds on women seeking an abortion. The bill, one of the most severe of its kind in the country, was quietly abandoned after a similar bill led to a backlash in Virginia.

But that doesn’t mean the mandatory ultrasound bill, or legislation like it, won’t be proposed in Pennsylvania again.

Laws like these enable politicians to act like ventriloquists, throwing their words into the mouths of doctors. It’s time for politicians to stop masquerading as ideological ventriloquists.

Doctors aren’t dummies. Patients deserve better. Women need to be able to trust that the voice they’re hearing is from their physician, not from Harrisburg’s political puppeteers.

Kate Michelman is co-chair of WomenVote PA, an organization that educates, engages, and mobilizes Pennsylvanians to make equality a reality for women. She is also president emerita of NARAL Pro-Choice America and author of “With Liberty and Justice for All: A Life Spent Protecting the Right to Choose.”

Sue Frietsche is a senior staff attorney in the Western Pennsylvania office of the Women’s Law Project.

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Filed under Contraception, Health Care, Health insurance, PA Legislature, Pennsylvania, Reproductive Rights, Women's health

AllAboveAll

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff

AllAboveAll

This week, we saw a glimpse of the tragic consequences of the misguided effort to “end abortion” by forcing healthcare clinics that provide abortion services to shut down. A 39-year-old mother in Montour County—the smallest county in Pennsylvania–was sent to jail after ordering abortion-inducing pills for her teenage daughter. The woman, a professional nurse’s aid, told police she couldn’t find any abortion clinics nearby, and her daughter lacked health insurance.

The news underscored the need to expand access to safe and legal abortion care in Pennsylvania, a goal shared by All Above All, a national group that stopped in Philadelphia Wednesday to host a rally in Love Park.

All Above All is a movement to build support for equal access to abortion care by repealing abortion coverage bans. Their vision is “to restore public insurance coverage so that every woman, however much she makes, can get affordable, safe abortion care when she needs it.”

Since the passage of the Hyde amendment in 1976, Congress has withheld coverage for abortion services from women insured through the Medicaid program. Currently, nearly 1 in 7 women of reproductive age (15-44) is insured through the Medicaid. The percentage of women insured through the program is rising, as more states expand Medicaid with federal funds provided under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The problem isn’t just the Hyde Amendment. Last year, Pennsylvania lawmakers made it impossible for a woman to buy an insurance plan that covers abortion through the online marketplace. An exception to protect the health of the mother was explicitly rejected. Now, a woman with a health insurance plan purchased through the marketplace has to pay out of pocket to end a pregnancy, even if she faces a serious health risk like cancer.

Wealth should not be a prerequisite to exercise constitutional rights. The advocates who gathered in Love Park know this all too well.

From CBS Philly:

Jessica Arons, of the Reproductive Health Technology Project, says it takes bravery to take on the issue of abortion funding at this time, when abortion opponents have succeeded at curbing access to abortion across the country, but she says the issues are related.

“Not having insurance coverage for abortion care, not being able to afford an abortion procedure just compounds the problem so let’s say she finally gets to the clinic, she still has to pay for it so that’s why we’re working on both,” Arons said.

Another way to try to make abortion unaffordable for poor women is to shut down providers.

In 2012, Pennsylvania Legislature targeted abortion providers with new regulations, despite the opposition of relevant medical organizations and public health advocates. The new law prohibited doctors from offering abortion care in doctors’ offices, requiring instead that any facility where even a single abortion was performed undergo a burdensome and expensive licensing process. This requirement led to the closure of at least four abortion clinics in Pennsylvania. (These are the same type of regulations a federal judge recently ruled placed “an unconstitutional undue burden on women throughout Texas.”)

Though there is plenty of evidence that these regulations require prohibitively expensive architectural renovations, there is no evidence they improve patient safety.

Given the shrinking number of clinics in Pennsylvania, it’s not surprising that we are starting to see evidence of women turning to the black market, despite health and legal risks. Contrary to the rhetoric of lawmakers attempting to shut clinics down by any means necessary, forcing abortion clinics to close doesn’t “end abortion.”  It only ends access to safe, legal abortion for working and poor women.

The All Above All rally featured speakers included Philadelphia Councilwomen Cindy Bass and Blondell Reynolds-Brown, Rabbi Lori Koffman of the National Council of Jewish Women and La’Tasha D. Mayes, Founder and Executive Director of New Voices Pittsburgh.

“Freedom from violence is reproductive justice,” Mayes told the crowd. “Trusting black women is reproductive justice!”

All Above All road trip has made stops in California, Oregon, Minnesota, Illinois, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York before stopping in Pennsylvania this week. Next, they’re headed to Washington, DC.

Missed the rally? Ask your representatives in Congress to lift restrictions on abortion coverage by signing the petition here.

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Filed under Abortion Access, PA Legislature, Reproductive Rights, Women's health, Working poor

“The progress has stalled:” WLP Managing Attorney Terry Fromson testified about Equal Pay in Pennsylvania

By Tara Murtha

“Gender-based wage discrimination is unfortunately alive and persistent in Pennsylvania,” Terry Fromson, Managing Attorney of Women’s Law Project, testified in front of the House Democratic Policy Committee in Philadelphia yesterday.

“Although significant progress was made in closing the pay gap following the adoption of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII in the 1960s, that progress has stalled. The ratio of women’s pay to men’s pay narrowed only by 1.7 percent between 2004 and 2013.”

“In Pennsylvania women working full time, year round, are paid 76 cents to the dollar paid to men,” Fromson continued. “For women of color, the gender pay differences are larger. If this slowing of progress continues, women will not achieve parity with men until 2058.”

Fromson told the Committee specific allegations of pay discrimination considered by Pennsylvania courts in the last decade:

“The female vice president whose salary was ten to twenty thousand less than the other three male vice presidents … the senior consultant who was hired at a salary $15,000 less than the man hired one month after her … a high school principal paid $10,000-$15,000 less than equally positioned male principals.”

In some cases, Fromson said, women who discovered a discrepancy have been penalized for standing up for themselves, like the “female manager who was fired when she complained about being paid $14,000 less than a similarly situated male coworker.”

Fromson took issue with the common argument that disparities in average pay for full-time work between men and women are just a result of women’s choices, such as what kind of job to pursue and having children. As Fromson pointed out, research proves that assertion wrong: the pay gap remains even when controlling for these variables.

The problem certainly isn’t education. “In the 2009-2010 academic year, women earned the majority of bachelor’s, graduate, and professional degrees,” said Fromson. “Nonetheless, one year out of college they experienced a wage gap of 82% of the wages paid to their male counterparts.”

The hearing was held to showcase support for Pennsylvania House Bill 1250. Introduced by Rep. Maria P. Donatucci (D-Delaware/Philadelphia), HB 1250 seeks to update Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Law for the first time since 1959.

Like the federal law, Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Law prohibits wage discrimination based on gender in the workplace when the work requires equal skill, effort and responsibility. The act also sets forth penalties for violations.

The penalties, however, have not been updated for more than 50 years. Currently, businesses found in violation are penalized $50 to $200 per day. HB 1250 would increase that fine to $400 to $1,600. Fromson, however, asked the House to increase the penalties to those set forth in the original bill: a fine between $1,000 and $25,000. Fromson also took issue with two other changes that watered down the original version of HB 1250: keeping the statute of limitations at two years instead of expanding it to three, and removing language that makes discrimination against each individual employee a separate violation.

“In light of the passage of 55 years and the persistence of wage discrimination based on sex,” Fromson urged the House to “adopt the strongest bill with the strongest deterrents and remedies to eradicate pay discrimination.”

Women’s Law Project seeks to advance the legal status of women and girls through work such as advocating for common-sense updates to Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Act. WLP also supports new legislative initiatives such as Representative Molchany’s  and Sims’ House Bill 1890, which was recently introduced as part of the Women’s Health Agenda, a proactive, pro-choice package of legislative bills proposed by the bipartisan Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature.

“By amending Pennsylvania’s equal pay law to require greater scrutiny of pay differences, HB 1890 will insure that any differences that exist are in fact based on a bona fide factor other than sex that is job-related and consistent with business necessity,” testified Fromson. “HB 1890 will also remove the pay secrecy obstacle that prevents women from finding out if they are being paid differently.”

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Filed under Equal pay, PA Legislature

Let’s Leave Politics Behind for the Sake of Healthcare

By Kate Michelman and Carol E. Tracy

Pennsylvania is facing a 1.3 billion deficit and the annual state budget is due June 30. The obvious solution is to expand Medicaid, but some Pennsylvania legislators won’t consider it.

When Governor Corbett rejected expanding Medicaid as designed under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), the state gave up millions of dollars in federal funds that are still available, ready to be disbursed. By expanding Medicaid, even temporarily, Pennsylvania lawmakers could immediately draw down $600 million dollars for the 2014-15 budget – $500 million more than Governor Corbett’s Executive Budget – which would slash the 1.3 billion deficit considerably.

Of course, Medicaid expansion would also mean that the 600,000 Pennsylvanians left in the “coverage gap” without access to healthcare could actually see a doctor.

Refusing to expand Medicaid immediately in the face of a budget crisis not only means forgoing $500 million dollars in readily available revenue, but also maintaining an unacceptable status quo that means some of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians receive the least help.

Currently, because Pennsylvania didn’t expand Medicaid, the qualification cut-off for “traditional” Medicaid for non-disabled parents is 38% of the federal poverty level, or about $9,000 a year for a family of four.

Meanwhile, the ACA provides families of four earning between $24,000 and $95,500 a year with tax subsidies to assist them with purchasing a private insurance plan through the online marketplace. Families with incomes between $9,000 and $24,000 are left uninsured.

Refusing to expand Medicaid as intended under the ACA has created a bizarre system where a mother of two children who earns $10,000 a year does not qualify for subsidized coverage, while a childless single person earning $44,000 a year does.

Healthy mothers mean healthy families. Women’s lack of access to healthcare contributes to ailments that cause premature births, infant mortality and maternal mortality. With recent research showing that pregnant women and infants in Philadelphia suffer higher incidence of maternal and infant mortality than the rest of the country, we can’t afford to continue to play politics with health policy.

Health shouldn’t be determined by geography.

Every state touching Pennsylvania’s borders has expanded Medicaid. To be clear, the 600,000 working-poor Pennsylvanians in the coverage gap are stuck there simply because they live in Pennsylvania.

In addition to improving health and adding $500 million dollars in revenue, expanding Medicaid would create approximately 35,000 jobs.

State budget secretary Charles Zogby recently admitted that if the state attempts to balance the budget with only existing revenues, there would be no new funding for basic education, higher education or to reduce waiting lists for services for people with intellectual disabilities.

Governor Corbett has been fighting against the Affordable Care Act since he filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against the law as attorney general back in 2010. How much longer and how much more is he willing to sacrifice to the game of partisan politics?

Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania need not disrupt the approval process for Healthy PA, the alternate plan Governor Corbett submitted for federal review. (Healthy PA proposes to use the federal funds earmarked for expansion to provide a new form of coverage to low-income Pennsylvanians while cutting and limiting current benefits.) Policy experts point to New Hampshire as an example of a state that temporarily expanded Medicaid while negotiating an alternate waiver.

The budget crisis is frightening, but it is at least forcing the Pennsylvania legislature to reveal what they value most. They can choose partisan gamesmanship over the financial health of the Commonwealth and literal health of 600,000 citizens, or they can improve the health of working men and women, create jobs, and lay claim to $500 million additional federal dollars while slashing the budget deficit.

It seems clear it’s time to choose responsible governance over petty politics and expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania.


About the Women’s Law Project and WomenVote PA:

The Women’s Law Project is a Pennsylvania-based non-profit women’s legal advocacy organization focused on high-impact research, litigation and advocacy. The Women’s Law Project has offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. For more information go to www.womenslawproject.org.

WomenVote PA is the non-partisan action arm of the Women’s Law Project. For more information go to www.womenvotepa.org.

Carol E. Tracy is Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project and co-chairs, with Kate Michelman, of WomenVote PA.

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Filed under Government, Health Care, Health insurance, Medicaid, Pennsylvania, Women's health, working mothers, Working poor, working women

Pennsylvania Should Adopt A Law to Protect Women in Midlife From Employment Discrimination Based on Caregiving Responsibilities

By Caroline Buck, WLP Law Intern and Tara Murtha, WLP Staff

Women moving into the workforce has been one of the most important economic trends in the last 30 years. In April, the Center for American Progress issued a report that detailed the substantial impact of working women on the economy.

One of the report’s key findings was that if women’s employment had remained at the same level it was in 1979, the 2012 gross domestic product would have been roughly 11 percent lower. “In today’s dollars, this translates to more than $1.7 trillion less in output—roughly equivalent to combined U.S. spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in 2012.”

The most dramatic increase in working women has been the influx of mothers into the workforce. In 1979, 27.3 percent of mothers worked outside of the home. In 2007, this number grew to 46 percent.

Since 2007, both the percentage of working mothers and the overall number of women working outside the home has dropped.

It’s bad news for both women and the economy.

Last week, the New York Times published a report digging into the dynamics and consequences of the trend of women, and particularly middle-aged women, dropping out of the workforce while at the peak of their earning potential.

There’s no single explanation for the drop, but caring for elderly parents is one reason for the statistically significant reduction of women in the workforce. In a recent article investigating the issue, the New York Times profiled Tracy Murphy. Formerly a non-profit agency manager, 54-year-old Tracy left her job to care for her sick mother five years ago.  As we know, women are the primary caretakers of both parents and children. Though middle-aged women are dropping out of the workforce at a higher percentage than their younger counterparts, women in their 20s are also dropping out to focus on young children or to return to school.

Another factor is that the edge of the recession cut into government budgets, where statistically more women than men earn a paycheck. Almost half of the government jobs lost between 2008 and April of this year were in education – a job still overwhelming female – and illustrative of the ongoing job segregation that depresses women’s wages and opportunities.

From the New York Times:

“It’s a disaster for the women concerned,” said Ian Shepherdson, an independent economist, “but it’s also bad news for the economy because they are not contributing to growth and their skills are eroding through extended inactivity.”

With parents living longer and having children later, the report explains that women are pinned between caring for parents and children themselves to “save money,” and losing earnings and benefits that ideally would be incrementally increasing over the years.

Then, when they try to return to work, they find themselves pinned between being too young to retire and too old to be competitive. In addition, they are often discriminated against in hiring processes and passed over for promotions based on the assumption that they will be less committed to their jobs as a result of their caretaking responsibilities.

So what can we do?

There are certainly cultural factors at play: Women account for two-thirds of caretakers. Daughters are so much more likely to be tapped to care for elderly parents that studies of a recent report on the phenomenon commented, “it’s almost like being back at the turn of the century.”

Policies that acknowledge the shifting configurations of family, the labor market and the economy, as well as legislation that protects caregivers against employment discrimination, could help.

In Pennsylvania, 1.39 million people – primarily women – serve as informal caregivers for adults requiring long-term care at any given time. Additionally, three-quarters of adults requiring long-term care rely exclusively on family members to provide the daily assistance they need. Some states and localities have adopted laws to expressly prohibit employment discrimination based on caregiving responsibilities.  Pennsylvania has not yet done so.

On June 5, Tara Pfeifer, Staff Attorney for the Women’s Law Project, presented testimony before the Pennsylvania House Labor Committee in support of a state bill that would provide some necessary protections.

H.B. 2271, if passed, would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to prohibit discrimination based on “familial status” in the employment context. Although this is an important step that would provide much needed protections for working parents with caregiving responsibilities, the current bill does not provide legal protections to those who are caring for adults that require long-term assistance. As a result, other legislation is needed to fill this gap.

The economic and social impact of caretaking responsibilities on women’s workforce participation is clear, and the potential for discrimination in the employment context because of these responsibilities looms large. Yet until further legislative action is taken, those caring for other adults will remain vulnerable.

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Filed under Caretaking, familial status, PA Law, PA Legislature, working women

Update: Philadelphia Breastfeeding Accommodation Bill Signed into Law

UPDATE: September 3, 2014, Mayor Nutter signed the Breastfeeding Accommodation Bill No. 130922 into law, and he quotes WLP Executive Director, Carol Tracy, saying “Philadelphia is the most women friendly city in the USA.”

 

Earlier Post:  Philadelphia City Council Considers Bill to Support Nursing Mothers in the Workplace (June 19, 2014)

By Freya Riedlin, Intern, Women’s Law Project

“I would assume that if men could bear children, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.” – Councilman Kenney

CityCouncil

These days, it is common knowledge that breastfeeding provides both infants and mothers with a range of invaluable health benefits. For example, breast milk reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and reduces the frequency of gastrointestinal infections in babies. For mothers, breastfeeding is associated with a reduction in the incidence of breast and ovarian cancer.

Because of these health benefits, the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life. But many mothers return to the workplace before their child reaches six months of age. Consequently, working mothers who breastfeed must express milk in the course of their workday to maintain a sufficient supply of breast milk for their infants. Despite this need, many employers still do not provide breastfeeding mothers the time and space necessary to pump breast milk.

Last week, Amal Bass, Staff Attorney at the Women’s Law Project, presented testimony to the Law and Government Committee of Philadelphia City Council in support of a bill that would change just that.

Alongside fellow advocates and experts Dr. Esther Chung, Professor of Pediatrics at Jefferson Medical College; Rue Landau, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations; Katja Pigur, Director of Clinical and Breastfeeding Services of the Maternity Care Coalition; and Bonnie Higgins-Esplund, R.N., of the Pennsylvania Breastfeeding Coalition, the Women’s Law Project was proud to support Bill No. 130922. This proposed City Ordinance, introduced by Councilman David Oh, would amend the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance to clarify that it is a form of sex discrimination for an employer to fail to accommodate a nursing mother’s need to express breast milk at work.

The Women’s Law Project hears from women, both in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania, whose employers have denied them sufficient break time or a private space to express milk. These women face an impossible choice: to give in to the unreasonable demands of their employers, or disregard the medical advice they receive from their children’s doctors.

For some of these nursing mothers, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has already provided protection against these practices. The Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision in the ACA requires employers to provide employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime provision with reasonable unpaid break time and a private, sanitary space (other than a bathroom) for expressing breast milk. For employers with fewer than 50 employees, an exception may apply if doing so would constitute an “undue hardship.”

However, women who are exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act are currently not covered by the protections of the Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision. With Bill No. 130922, the Philadelphia City Council is attempting to fill that gap. By eliminating the distinction between exempt and nonexempt employees for the purposes of nursing mothers who need to express breast milk in the workplace, the bill would cover all employees – a vital step in ensuring the health of nursing mothers and their children.

With this law, women would not have to choose between working and providing their children with the benefits of breast milk – and it would bring us one step closer, as Ms. Pigur put it, to making Philadelphia the “City of Motherly Love.”

Read the full transcript here.

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Filed under Nursing Mothers, Philadelphia City Council, working mothers

“I should not have had to sue my employer to have a healthy pregnancy or keep breastfeeding”

Guest Blogger: Bobbi Bockoras

As a mother of three children, working in the manufacturing industry, I am truly in the minority: I’m one of 30 women in our facility and the only one with small children. Still, I hardly thought that in this day and age I would have to fight just to have a healthy pregnancy or continue breastfeeding after returning to work.

I found out the hard way that I was wrong.

In the fall of 2012 I found myself pregnant. I work for a glass bottle making company, and my job requires me to enter confined spaces, make major adjustments on large machinery, do lots of standing and lifting, and endure extreme heat during the summer time.

Late into my pregnancy, I became too big to do some of what my job required, and my doctor gave me some work restrictions in order to protect myself and my pregnancy. I asked my supervisor numerous times about being moved to a light duty job, but each time I asked, my request was denied. Not wanting to cause waves, and feeling that continuing to ask for accommodations would be a waste of breath, I accepted a voluntary lay off, which forced me to give up my FMLA bonding time with my soon-to-be baby daughter. I was not aware of the rights that could have protected me during this time and allowed me to continue working.

I gave birth to a beautiful little girl last spring, and I told my supervisors that I had planned on breastfeeding and would need breaks and a place to pump when I returned to work. While I was off, I took it upon myself to learn the laws associated with breastfeeding because I knew that my company had never had to accommodate a breast feeding woman at my facility. I went as far as printing out a copy of the “Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers” provision of the Affordable Care Act to give to my Human Resources office.

Nonetheless, when I returned to work, the company did not provide the proper accommodations that nursing mothers are entitled to—instead assigning me to places that were filthy, hot, and unsanitary or places where my coworkers were constantly trying to barge in or.

This led to harassment and difficulties that no new mother should have to face. My coworkers kept tampering with the door to the room, putting filthy grease on the door handle, and when I complained, I was placed back onto a rotating shift—where my hours shifted every week, including an overnight shift.

The stress and the constantly changing shifts caused my milk supply to drop. I went from pumping more than enough milk for my baby during the work day to barely getting enough for one feeding. She refused to nurse, and it became extremely frustrating for both of us. This should have been a time of snuggles, smiles, and happiness—of joy in breastfeeding and pride in myself for being able to raise a family and work at the same time. Instead, I faced harassment, retaliation, and depression. I felt emotionally and physically drained.

Finally, I took the initiative and contacted people who could advocate on my behalf. It was only after I threatened to sue that the company cleaned up the room and returned me to working regular daytime hours, and even then, I continued to face harassment—the lock to the room was tampered with twice more.

Just when I thought nothing could make my situation even harder, I found myself pregnant again. My mind raced a million miles an hour—in the middle of a lawsuit with my employer due to the situation over breastfeeding, I dreaded having to ask for further accommodations. I could not afford to be laid off again.

Luckily, this time, I was armed with the knowledge that the law allows me to continue to work, even with restrictions. Because I took the time to educate myself, the company knew they had to do the right thing, and they gave me a modified work assignment. I worked right up until I gave birth.

I should not have had to take the drastic step to sue my employer simply to have a safe pregnancy, equality as a woman, and the right to breastfeed even after returning to work. I faced a lot of backlash and grief when my lawsuit went public. But I made the bold decision to take a stand as a working mom so others wouldn’t be faced with having to fight like I did for something so simple. I take pride in knowing that I am doing something that will eventually make a difference, and I want my daughters to know that I love them enough to stand up for their rights. Educating yourself on your rights is something all women need to do, because no one is going to do it for you. Sometimes a little bit of knowledge and a whole lot of love can go a long way.

Bobbi Bockoras is represented by the ACLU, The Women’s Law Project, and Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP, which is working on the case pro bono. You can learn more about her case here.

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Filed under Employment, Pregnancy, pregnant workers fairness, working mothers