Two bills that make sense for mothers, children and Indiana

My husband and I welcomed a healthy baby boy on Jan. 4.

As I gaze down at his tiny, precious face, a rush of gratitude washes over me. I was given every privilege and pillar of support to have a healthy pregnancy — comprehensive medical care, a helpful network of family and friends, and a salaried job from a supportive employer.

These necessary elements, however, should not be left to chance or only to those with certain resources. A healthy and discrimination-free pregnancy should be enshrined for all Hoosier women and families. Today I write in support of House Bill 1358 and Senate Bill 246 which introduce pregnancy and childbirth accommodations into Indiana code.

These proposed pieces of legislation will be a step in the right direction to achieve three key goals for Hoosier women: 1) lower maternal and infant mortality rates, 2) increase economic stability for women and 3) continue to be a pro-growth destination for attracting and retaining talent.

Although Indiana tops the list in many admirable categories among its peers, it ranks near the bottom of the country when it comes to high maternal and infant mortality rates. These rates are disproportionately reflected in minority communities highlighting significant racial disparities among our citizens.

In addition, Indiana garners a higher national average when it comes to preterm births and associated dangers. These are statistics we should not tolerate as Hoosiers. HB 1358 and SB 246 take a common-sense approach and propose tangible accommodations such as safeguarding adequate restroom breaks, accommodating lighter physical workloads and temporarily reassigning pregnant employees away from exposure to dangerous chemicals. These directives will provide an immediate impact on these troubling statistics and benefit all Hoosier women.

Next, this bill will bolster the underpinnings of economic stability for women in Indiana. More than 300,000 households are headed by women, coupled with that fact that three out of four Indiana women participate in the workforce. Why are we making hard-working Hoosier women choose between a safe pregnancy or a secure paycheck? By not codifying appropriate protections for women in the workplace, we are leaving women to an impossible choice.

Additionally, Indiana prides itself on being a pro-growth and business friendly state. For better or worse, it means we are in competition with 49 other states to attract high-paying jobs and talent. If these pieces of legislation pass, we would be the 31st state to have such protections and guarantee women can remain in the workforce without sacrificing health or safety. This will ensure our state can build and retain a healthy workforce and continue to attract top talent to our borders.

Finally, HB 1358 and SB 246 will build on federal laws that bar pregnancy discrimination but will explicitly articulate what reasonable accommodations and protections should be provided. Businesses value clarity and these pieces of legislation provide clear expectations in which these guideposts can ultimately protect against litigation.

In conclusion, this is not just a women’s issue — this is a Hoosier issue. We can no longer afford not to have women and families at the forefront of our legislative priorities. Pregnancy and childbirth protections will create a strong workforce, a workforce that builds families, families that build communities and these communities shape the future of our state.

On behalf of myself, my family and my newborn son — I urge Hoosiers from across the state to write their legislators in support of HB 1358 and SB 246.

Andrea Richter-Garry is a founding board member and serves on the Advisory Board for Women4Change Indiana. She is an international affairs and economic development professional. Richter-Garry resides in Indianapolis with her husband and two sons. Send comments to [email protected].