CHICAGO - Governor Pat Quinn agreed with the Illinois General Assembly Tuesday, "Women's Equality Day" that pregnant women should be allowed special treatment while on the job.
The governor signed into law State Rep. Mark Flowers (D-Chicago) and Senator Toi Hutchison's (D-Chicago Heights) HB 8, which requires employers to set limits on heavy lifting and provide assistance in manual labor; provide access to places to sit, more frequent bathroom breaks, time off to recover from childbirth and break space for breast-feeding.
“Women should not have to choose between being a mother and having a job,” Governor Quinn said. “This new law will provide important protections and accommodations for working mothers-to-be so that they can continue to provide for their family without risking their health or the health of their child. These common-sense accommodations will provide peace of mind, safety and opportunity for moms-to-be and also help strengthen our workforce across the state.”
The common sense provisions are now required by the new law, but giving pregnant and nursing moms special considerations grinds against a renewed effort in the Illinois General Assembly to pass the federal Equal Right Amendment. While the debate is ongoing as to whether the ERA has passed its deadline, there is a question about whether laws like the one Governor Quinn signed into law would then be ruled unconstitutional.
Would an implemented federal ERA strip away these provisions for pregnant working moms, since it applies only to women?
Yes, it would, says Eagle Forum lobbyist and constitutional attorney Sharee Langenstein.
"The ERA would prevent states from making any distinction between men and women. WIC would be gone. Protections for pregnant and nursing women would be gone. Car insurance rates will go up. The cost of dry-cleaning will go up," Langenstein said.
Other unanswered questions being raised are "How much consideration of women's reproductive condition is enough?" "Will these work rules negatively affect the hiring of women child-bearing age?" "And will women not of child-bearing age be expected to bear the burden of their working sisters that are fertile?"
Those are questions that may be answered only in the courts.