Modest proposal for the health of women, infants


(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star

Indiana is known to spare little effort to accommodate businesses in hopes of creating and retaining jobs.

The state frequently boasts about its attractive business climate and touts its low unemployment rate. Thanks to supportive public policies and substantial privileges, businesses are doing well. In turn, the Hoosier economy is doing well.

With such a strong economic foundation, isn’t it time for forgotten elements of the workforce to feel the benefits?

Gov. Eric Holcomb and his administration think so. And so do we. A good place to start is embracing Holcomb’s proposal that would require more businesses to provide workplace accommodations for pregnant women.

Senate Bill 342 was introduced into this legislative session and doesn’t ask much of businesses that have benefited so greatly from the state’s pro-business policies.

The modest proposal simply asks businesses with more than 15 employees to modify jobs for pregnant women who need longer breaks, transfers to less physical work, a private place to pump breast milk and unpaid time off after childbirth.

Holcomb and his allies in medical and health professions made the case that such a plan would reduce the state’s infant mortality rate, which in 2017 was the country’s seventh worst, with 600 infant deaths. What’s more, Indiana has the third worst maternal mortality rate. Advocates point out that 27 other states have similar laws as that being proposed here and that a federal law already exists covering larger companies.

Still, the bill met with resistance from business groups, including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Indiana Manufacturers Association. Business lobbyists expressed concern that such a law could be a financial burden on small businesses.

The state Senate sided with business interests. At least for now. The Senate removed the pregnancy accommodation requirement and passed a bill that simply urges creation of an interim summer committee to study the fiscal impact of the issue. There is no guarantee that a study committee will be created.

The bill is now being considered by the House. To his credit, the governor isn’t giving up. Holcomb said he will continue working to gain support for this measure before the session ends.

Doing more to accommodate pregnant women is not too much to ask of a thriving business community. These are reasonable proposals that have already been adopted in a majority of U.S. states.

It’s time for Indiana to do its part. Women in the workplace should not have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and a paycheck.

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