TIME Health Care

Battle Over Paid Surrogacy Opens New Front

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The bill is personal for this New York senator

In many states, hiring a woman to carry and give birth to a child for you is illegal. But democratic New York Senator Brad Hoylman is fighting to change that in his home state. On Wednesday, he and the New York State assembly re-filed a bill called the Child-Parent Security Act to legalize compensated surrogacy in New York, and provide protections that ensure surrogates are entering into legal agreements and there’s no question that the intended parents of the child have full rights.

For him, the issue is personal and political.

New York forbids compensated surrogacy and is the only state where criminal penalties can be imposed on people who enter into a paid surrogacy agreement. That means that couples who want to use a surrogate to have a child that they’re genetically related must travel to a state where the practice is legal in order to do so.

That’s what Hoylman and his husband David Sigal did. Their daughter Silvia, now 4, was born via a surrogate in California, where compensated surrogacy is legal and parental rights are established prior to the birth of the child. “It added a lot of time and expense and uncertainty to having a child as a gay couple,” says Hoylman. “California has codified legal protections for surrogate families, and I would like to see that replicated in New York.”

Twenty-two states allow the practice and four states—New York, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey—as well as Washington, D.C., forbid it . The remaining states don’t have any rulings on the matter, meaning it’s technically not illegal but there are no laws to protect people should something go wrong, such as legal arguments over who has parental rights.

“I’ve had reports of surrogate children being born in New York illegally,” says Hoylman. “It’s a bit of a wild west scenario.”

Paid surrogacy, whether in one’s home state or elsewhere, is still costly. Basic fees for a surrogate mother can range from $32,000 to $40,000, with medical bills, legal fees, finding an egg donor and paying for insurance on top of it. For couples who travel out of state for a legal arrangement, there’s the added cost of travel throughout the pregnancy. All told, out-of-state surrogacy arrangements can cost around $100,000 on average.

One of the reasons many states are still wary of paid surrogacy is because of a 1988 ruling in New Jersey over “Baby M.” In a traditional surrogacy scenario, a woman named Mary Beth Whitehead agreed to be the paid surrogate for William and Elizabeth Stern, whom she found in a newspaper advertisement. But after giving birth, Whitehead changed her mind and tried to take the child back. Ultimately, the court gave custody to the Sterns, but Whitehead was given legal visitation rights. After that, paid surrogacy was outlawed in New Jersey, and others followed suit.

But thanks to in vitro fertilization, surrogacy today looks very different than it did a decade ago. Experts now recommend gestational surrogacy, where a surrogate fetus is implanted with an embryo made from donor sperm and egg—as opposed to tradition surrogacy, where the surrogate is inseminated with sperm. In the latter case, the carrier is genetically related to the child. Hoylman’s bill does not endorse that form.

Hoylman’s bill establishes the concept of “intended parentage” so that regardless of how a child was conceived, intended parents get rights. For example, in many cases, if a lesbian couple has a child via a sperm donor, the non-biological mother must adopt the child, something Hoylman says women find “embarrassing.”

For now, Hoylman says he has to prove that compensated surrogacy can work in New York.

“I was in the delivery room with my daughter and not everyone has that vantage point,” says Hoylman. “I am mindful that this is a longer term project.”

TIME public health

Paying People Could Help Them Quit Smoking

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Researchers offered women more than $1,000 to get them to stop smoking

Paying people to quit their bad health habits may be a powerful way to address public health issues like smoking, according to a new study in the BMJ. In the study, pregnant women were more than twice as likely to quit smoking when offered financial incentives than when they were given regular counseling.

“If financial incentives are effective and cost effective they may well have the future potential to sit with vaccines as an important preventive healthcare intervention strategy,” the study says.

The research, which looked at more than 600 pregnant women in the United Kingdom, offered women up to $1,200 dollars in shopping vouchers for following steps to quit smoking. Nearly a quarter of women who were offered the money successfully quit smoking. In the control group, a separate group of women received free nicotine therapy and were counseled on how to quit. Less than 9% of those women were able to kick the habit.

Read More: What I Learned From My $190,000 Surgery

That success gap remained when researchers followed up a year with the women in both groups who had quit. Fifteen percent of the women who had been paid to quit had stayed away from cigarettes, while only 4% of the counseling group quitters had done the same.

Using financial incentives to encourage better health behavior has been explored in depth in recent years by public health experts, but many remain skeptical due to underlying ethical concerns. Some have argued that such incentives are coercive and diminish a person’s sense of personal responsibility. But the researchers in this study argue that it can help in more ways than one; getting additional funds before a child’s birth helps the people who need financial assistance the most at the time they need help.

“In the developed world there is now a clear socioeconomic gradient in smoking, with tobacco use concentrated among the poorest in society,” the study says. “Receipt of financial incentives can contribute to needed household income in advance of the arrival of a baby in low income households.”

MONEY work life balance

President Obama Wants You to Get Paid, Even When You’re on Leave

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New proposals for paid maternity and sick leave

President Obama thinks if you’re sick, or you have a newborn at home, you should stay home from work—and you should still get paid.

In many developed countries, that’s a given. Not so in the United States. Only 12% of American workers receive paid family leave, and only 61% have paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Ahead of the State of the Union on January 20, Obama is proposing big changes to the rules governing sick pay and family leave, outlined by senior advisor Valerie Jarrett on LinkedIn yesterday.

First, Obama plans to sign a memorandum giving federal employees at least six weeks of paid leave after the birth of a child. Second, he’ll ask Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act that would let workers earn up to seven days of paid sick leave. Finally, he’ll offer a plan to help states and towns start their own sick leave programs.

Even these proposals are meager compared to the paid family leave in other nations. The United Nation’s International Labor Organization surveyed family leave policies in 185 countries or territories around the world. Only two nations did not offer paid maternity leave: the United States, and Papua New Guinea.

Weeks of paid maternity leave % Pay
United Kingdom 52 weeks 90%
Canada 17 weeks 55%
France 16 weeks 100%
Netherlands 16 weeks 100%
Germany 14 weeks 100%
Japan 14 weeks 60%
China 14 weeks 100%
India 12 weeks 100%
Obama’s proposal for federal workers 6 weeks 100%
Average length of paid leave for American women who got it 3.3 weeks 31%
Paid leave required by American law 0 weeks 0%

And the other 183 countries? French mothers get 16 weeks, paid in full. Indian mothers get 12 weeks, paid in full. Mothers in the United Kingdom get six weeks paid at 90% of their usual salary, a little less for the next 33 weeks, and then they’re entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

American parents are guaranteed only 12 weeks of unpaid leave, total, provided they work for a company with more than 50 employees. That means 15% of American workers aren’t allowed even unpaid leave to care for their families, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics.

Of course, some American employers choose to give workers family leave benefits. But it’s often not much. In the United States, only 41% of new mothers receive paid maternity leave, according to study in the Maternal and Child Health Journal. The 2013 study is based on a survey of 18- to 45-year-old mothers who gave birth in American hospitals in 2005. The women who did get paid maternity leave had an average of 3.3 weeks off and were paid just 31% of their total salary, on average.

Unsurprisingly, the more women earn and the more education they have, the more generous their maternity leave benefits tend to be. Still, just three out of five women with post-bachelor degrees received paid maternity leave—5.1 weeks, on average. (By contrast, only 29% of women with high school degrees or less received paid maternity leave, of 2.3 weeks on average.)

Then there’s sick leave. (You can guess where this is going.) According to a 2009 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the United States was again the only country out of 22 industrialized nations that guarantees no paid sick leave. Americans are only protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires that employers give employees unpaid leave in the event that an employee needs to care for a family member with a “serious illness”—the flu doesn’t count.

President Obama’s family leave proposal would apply only to federal employees, and his sick leave proposal needs to get through Congress. So perhaps your best hope comes not from the federal government, but from your state legislature or city hall. California, New Jersey and Rhode Island offer paid family leave. California, Connecticut and Massachusetts have instituted paid sick leave. San Francisco, D.C., Seattle, Portland, Ore., New York City, Jersey City, Newark, Eugene, Ore., San Diego and more cities have passed paid sick day laws, too. And Massachusetts just guaranteed fathers more unpaid paternity leave.

TIME Family

‘I’m Afraid My Baby’s Head Will Fall Off’

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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

I'm afraid to write this, but I'm more afraid stigma will prevent other women from getting help

xojane

“I’m afraid my baby’s head will fall off,” I tell my psychiatrist.

She nods, normally, sympathetically, as if mothers everywhere suffer visions of their baby’s heads coming off their necks. “Can you explain that?” she asks.

And I tell her how, when I was 10, my father took me dove hunting. Most of the time, his shot didn’t kill the dove. So to end its suffering, my father would casually twist its head off. I watched in sick fascination, over and over, as his big hands almost gently wrenched the birds’ heads from their small gray bodies. I had no idea heads could be so precariously attached, no idea that one small twist could decapitate.

When I had my third son, I couldn’t stop thinking how delicately his head attached, how strong hands could twist and pull. It terrified me, this thin neck, this precarious joining of flesh and bone. I remembered the birds. I had seen their heads lie wide-eyed on the ground.

“That’s horrible,” my doctor said. She upped both my medications and added Xanax. “We need to get that under control,” she told me. “You can’t live like this.”

But I could. I did. And so do millions of other women.

I’ve been down the dark alleys of depression before. But it didn’t become utterly unlivable until I got pregnant. At eight weeks, we thought we were losing our baby. I sobbed for six straight hours, through the emergency room, the ultrasound, all the way home. I cried because I was still pregnant. I couldn’t possibly cope with this very wanted baby. How could I have made such a terrible mistake?

A case of borderline hyperemesis worsened my depression and anxiety. My husband left town for three days, which I spent consumed with thoughts of his imminent death. The panic attacks began: clutching bouts of heart-pounding terror that left me gasping for air, convinced every wheeze was hurting the baby.

When I admitted to my husband that I kept myself from suicide because I didn’t want to kill my baby, I finally got help: medication, and a real psychiatrist.

I was suffering from prenatal depression, which is experienced by 10 to 20 percent of pregnant women. Everyone talks about postpartum depression. No one mentions that the same hormones can trigger prenatal depression as well. Babies born to depressed women suffer higher rates of stress hormones, less coordination and motor control, and more sleep disturbances. Up to 14 percent of women take antidepressants during pregnancy, and their efficacy — and effects on the baby — is debatable. But for some women whose depression is severe enough that they can’t care for themselves or a child, their use is necessary. I was one of those women.

But my SSRIs weren’t enough after Sunny’s birth. Coming off a high-risk, debilitating pregnancy, I began to have obsessive thoughts. I would lay down with my son during nap time and think, This is how we will curl up after the apocalypse, when the nuclear bombs fall and we scrabble to live through nuclear winter. How would I feed us? Would people try to cannibalize each other? I was haunted by Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Stephen King’s The Stand. The end felt nigh.

I had other symptoms. Constantly stressed, I snapped at my older sons. Depression doesn’t always look sad: It can look like mean instead. Normal kid behavior left me enraged; a simple lost shoe could ruin the day. I yelled. I stomped off to the bedroom. I couldn’t understand why my children had suddenly become so bad.

And I began, again, to worry my husband would die. I started crying in the bathroom. My baby, who I loved so much, felt like a terrible mistake. I was a mistake. I thought about killing myself, but knew he wouldn’t have anything to eat. I worried his head would fall off.

I needed more medication.

We had to tweak and tinker. But a year later, I’m on an even keel again. I needed a good deal of medication to get here, but the dangers of a depressed mother outweigh the medication passed through my breast milk (and for health reasons related to severe food intolerances, weaning was not an option). And other things helped, of course: I spend time outside; I eat well. I make sure to get enough sleep, and I cuddle my son as much as possible. I am happy and healthy. I am productive.

But I wasn’t always this way. I got help.

Millions of women do not.

And the first step toward helping women with depression is to take away its stigma. I’m afraid to write this. I worry about its implications for my relationships, for my life. We’ve been taught that depression means you’re weak or crazy. We worry it makes us less of a mother. We have been shamed for the vagaries of brain chemistry, for the feelings we can’t fix.

Millions of women suffer. They need us to come out of the dark and to say: I’ve been there. I am there. I hear you.

Depression doesn’t mean you hate your baby.

It doesn’t mean you hate yourself.

It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, a weak person, or a selfish person.

It doesn’t make you less than other mothers.

It shouldn’t make you ashamed.

It shouldn’t make you alone.

Elizabeth Broadbent is a writer and mother. This article originally appeared on xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME

Morning Must Reads: January 14

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

New Charlie Hebdo Issue Sells Out

Charlie Hebdo‘s defiant new issue sold out around Paris on Wednesday, with scuffles over copies of the paper fronting the Prophet Muhammad. The issue hit newsstands just as the Yemen-based branch of al-Qaeda officially claimed responsibility for attack

Uber Fights Traffic Jams

Uber said it will share its transportation data with Boston officials in hopes of helping the city ease traffic congestion and improve city planning

U.S. Medical Research Stalls

Funding for medical research in the United States is in a sorry state, but other parts of the world are experiencing the opposite, according to a new study

Zooey Deschanel Is Pregnant

The New Girl star confirmed to People that she’s expecting her first child, with boyfriend Jacob Pechenik. “Jacob and I are over the moon,” the 34-year-old actress said. Deschanel has been dating Pechenik, a 42-year-old producer, since mid-2014

Where to Buy the New Charlie Hebdo

The French satirical newspaper released its first issue on Wednesday since last week’s terrorist attack left eight journalists dead at its Paris office. Only a few hundred copies of the first printing are set to reach the U.S. over the next few days

Bartender Accused in Boehner Plot

A former bartender of House Speaker John Boehner plotted to kill him by poisoning his drink or shooting him, federal authorities said. Michael Robert Hoyt worked at a country club in West Chester, Ohio, that Boehner frequented for five years

Man Finds Himself (Almost) Alone on Delta Flight

A media strategist and writer lucked out when his flight from Cleveland to New York City had only one other passenger aboard. “There were no screaming babies, no one listening to loud lyrics or reclining their seats or taking their shoes,” Chris O’Leary said

Woody Allen Will Make a TV Show for Amazon

Allen will both write and direct a series of half-hour episodes of an as-yet-untitled show for the retail giant’s streaming network, a first for the Oscar-winning filmmaker. But Amazon’s big deal could bring with it big controversy, writes TIME’s James Poniewozik

Japan Cabinet Approves Record Military Budget

Japan’s Cabinet approved the country’s largest ever defense budget on Wednesday, including plans to buy surveillance aircraft, drones and F-35 fighter jets to help counter China’s rising assertiveness in the region. The budget must still be approved by parliament

Release Dates of 4 Disney Movies Announced

Disney has announced the release dates of four of its upcoming films, including the remake of Pete’s Dragon and The Jungle Book, an anime adaptation The Ghost in the Shell and disaster film The Finest Hours. Idris Elba and Bill Murray will feature in The Jungle Book

RNC Looks to Expel Committeeman for ‘Abhorrent Views’

Members of the Republican National Committee will gather this week to consider voting to expel one of their own. Dave Agema, the national committeeman from Michigan, has endorsed racist and homophobic material on social media and has refused calls to resign

Bitcoin Continues to Plummet

The price of Bitcoin dropped again this week, sliding to its lowest level since early 2013, suggesting that confidence in the contentious cryptocurrency may be shrinking. On Tuesday, its value dropped from $267 to about $224

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TIME women

Why Model Robyn Lawley Is a Role Model for Considering Abortion

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Celebrity pregnancy announcements normally reinforce the idea that motherhood is a woman’s true calling

xojane

We all want to make choices for ourselves. Most women, however, are not afforded that luxury, as every choice, from wardrobe to reproduction, becomes a topic of public discussion.

The scrutiny is multiplied beyond my mathematical comprehension when the woman in question is a celebrity. Looks and decisions are meticulously dissected every time she “steps out” or “flaunts” or “shows off” before image-hungry cameras. One of the tabloid’s favorite pastimes is “womb watch,” guessing which celebrity is pregnant, or has perhaps eaten a large lunch, before wondering when certain celebrities like Jennifer Aniston or Cameron Diaz are planning on children as they’re deemed to be running out of time.

Every celebrity pregnancy announcement is filled with positivity.

We’re told of the immense joy and blessing that pregnancy is, reinforcing the idea that motherhood is a woman’s true calling. Reality often doesn’t look like that, as not every pregnancy is planned and wanted and some women may feel worried or ambivalent about the prospect of children overall.

That’s why Australian model Robyn Lawley’s decision to share her thoughts about an accidental pregnancy is so important to the overall narrative surrounding pregnancy.

Lawley is a 25-year-old pro-choice feminist and successful “plus-size” model who has worked for many mainstream brands like Ralph Lauren so it’s safe to assume that she has financial security; she’s also engaged and has previously discussed having children with her partner. In many ways she is in the best position to have a baby. Nevertheless, Lawley, like many women the world over, had many things to consider before continuing with her pregnancy.

In a recent interview, she revealed: “As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I had to take all options into account, because with a baby, I’ll have to majorly slow down — and I’m very career-driven. That scared me. The reality is many women face a plethora of factors when considering whether to have an abortion. My case is no different.”

It’s very reassuring to hear such a rational and calm consideration of abortion without the hyperbolic discussion of personal tragedy and torment that seem to make up the permissible “good abortion” accounts. That’s not to say that sometimes one account is wrong or better than another but only one is allowed to exist without pro-lifers (anti-choicers, really) reaching for their pitchforks.

Lawley openly acknowledged that one of her biggest worries about pregnancy stemmed from the effects it has on the body saying “one of the biggest [fears] for me was related to my career, which necessarily and perhaps unfortunately relates, at least in part, to my body image.”

Unsurprisingly, the comments on the Daily Mail article, now no longer to be found, called her selfish for worrying about her body and denouncing women in general for not valuing human life. What those commenters fail to consider, besides basic human compassion, is the possible difficulty of returning to work after having a child or affording childcare. Once again, the child’s life is only considered while in utero and the woman is a mere vessel, not a person with life goals beyond children.

What’s most interesting to me about this story is Lawley’s ultimate decision to keep the baby.

No, it’s not in itself shocking, but had she not chosen to disclose the deliberation regarding an abortion, we would never have known. It makes me wonder how many celebrities — and even acquaintances — go through a similar process, later to either announce the joyful pregnancy news or simply keep silent about their decisions.

When Lawley was considering termination she said: “I thought it’d be so easy! I’d just walk in there, and it’d be done so quickly, but then I called them and heard the process and thought this is a serious, full-on thing. I decided then that I wanted to keep the baby.”

I begin to wonder who exactly the “them” in this instance represents because it seems like she wasn’t given the correct information unless her pregnancy was already well under way. Of course, abortion is a medical procedure with associated risks, though it has been found by researchers at University of California, San Francisco in a recent study to be as safe as a colonoscopy with nearly all of the procedures being performed at a doctor’s office or an outpatient clinic — not a hospital. This research would suggest that abortion is actually not a “full-on thing” but a minor and extremely safe procedure.

All this aside, Lawley has made the right choice because it’s the choice that she and she alone is making.

I, personally, am thankful to her for revealing her decision-making process, adding another rational voice to a discussion that often gets seized by individuals with ill intentions and misinformation. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, women will be able to speak openly about such decisions in public without inspiring murderous rage from people who want to police women’s private lives and bodies.

Zhenya Tsenzharyk is a writer and student in London. This article originally appeared on xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

Expectant Dads Experience Prenatal Hormone Changes Too

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Including a decrease in testosterone

Women aren’t the only ones who experience hormonal changes before having a baby. As it turns out, men also have some hormonal waves prior to becoming dads.

New research published in the American Journal of Human Biology looked at 29 couples expecting their first child. The researchers took salvia samples of the participants and measured their levels of the hormones testosterone, cortisol, estradiol, and progesterone. The couples’ hormones were measured at weeks 12, 20, 28, and 36 of pregnancy.

It’s long been proven that expectant women undergo hormonal changes, but less is known about the soon-to-be-papas. The new study shows that while women had increases in all four types of hormones, men had decreases in their testosterone and estradiol levels, but no significant changes in cortisol or progesterone.

It’s the first research to evidence that prenatal testosterone changes can occur in expectant fathers, though the changes are still small compared to those observed in women.

The researchers did not compare the couples to other non-expectant couples, so exactly how great these changes are compared to couples who aren’t expecting kids is undetermined. And scientists were unable to conclude why men experience these changes, though there are some speculations based on prior research.

For instance, prior studies have suggested that men’s hormones change after becoming fathers as they adopt more nurturing behaviors. Or that drops in testosterone may reflect sleep disruptions or disruptions in sexual activity due to having kids. Some of these same behaviors may happen during pregnancy too. The psychological, emotional and behavioral changes of new parenthood could also cause hormonal waves in expectant dads.

“It will be important for future research to determine whether the changes that we observed in men’s hormones reflect processes associated with fatherhood specifically, or long-term pair-bonding more generally,” the authors concluded. 

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TIME People

Multiple Babies Born at 10:11 on 12/13/14

Matthew and Jennie Keane pose with newborn daughter, Claire Elizabeth, Dec. 14, 2014.
Matthew and Jennie Keane pose with newborn daughter, Claire Elizabeth, Dec. 14, 2014. Christine Peterson—AP

When Jennie started having contractions Friday night the time and date became part of the plan

A Massachusetts couple is celebrating the birth of their daughter with a numerically unusual birth time and date.

Clare Elizabeth Keane was born at 10:11 a.m. Saturday – making her birth time and date 10:11, 12-13-14.

Parents Jennie and Matthew Keane, of Uxbridge, hadn’t even thought of the possible numerical feat until a nurse at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester mentioned the combination.

When Jennie started having contractions Friday night the time and date became part of the plan.

“We were laughing the whole time that she was pretty close,” Matthew tells The Telegram & Gazette.

Jennie Keane says she’s just glad the 7 lbs., 2 oz. Clare wasn’t 8 lbs., 9 oz..

Babies were also born in Billings, Montana, and Cleveland at the same time on Saturday.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME celebrities

Keira Knightley Is Expecting Her First Child

'The Imitation Game' - Opening Night Gala of 58th BFI London Film Festival
Keira Knightley attends a screening of 'The Imitation Game' in London, England on Oct. 8, 2014 Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

The actress is expecting not just a bountiful award season, but a child

Just a day after Keira Knightley nabbed two big acting nominations, the British star has more happy news: she is about three months pregnant.

Knightley, 29, is expecting her first child with husband James Righton, of the Klaxons, Page Six reports. The actress-singer couple married in France in spring 2013.

Knightley received a Best Supporting Actress nod from both the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes on Wednesday, for her role in The Imitation Game. The wartime drama picked up five Golden Globe nominations in total, including best motion picture.

[Page Six]

MONEY sex discrimination

Everything Working Women Need to Know About Pregnancy Discrimination

U.S. Supreme Court Peggy Young UPS
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The high court is hearing arguments on Wednesday on a case in which a UPS worker was forced to take unpaid leave when she got pregnant. Here's what every woman should know about this case and her rights in the workplace.

Any woman in the vicinity of her child-bearing years will want to pay attention to a case that’s being heard by the Supreme Court today.

The high court’s findings on Young v. United Parcel Service should address the gray areas of what workplace protections are guaranteed for pregnant women.

The least you need to know:

What’s the case about, anyway?

The plaintiff in the case is Peggy Young of Lorton, Va., who had worked as a delivery truck driver for UPS.

As part of her job description, she needed to be able to lift packages weighing up to 70 pounds. But when she got pregnant, her midwife wrote her a note that said she should not lift more than 20 pounds.

Young asked for a temporary “light-duty” assignment, but the company’s occupational health manager determined that she was ineligible.

Young says the division manager then told her she was “too much of a liability,” and she was not allowed to return to work until after she had given birth. So Young had to take an extended unpaid leave of absence, which caused her to lose her health coverage.

Wasn’t that discrimination?

That’s the question the court has to answer.

In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which clarifies that discrimination against pregnant women is a form of sex discrimination. That means your employer can’t fire you or deny you job benefits because you’re pregnant, you might become pregnant, you’ve given birth, or you have any related medical problems. Your employer has to treat you the same as people who are not pregnant but similar in their ability to work.

To prove sex discrimination, however, Young needed to show four things.

First, that she was a woman. Second, that she was qualified for the job, or the job benefit. Third, her employer denied her the job or benefit she wanted. And fourth, a similarly situated man received the job or benefit that she wanted.

The fourth presents a particular challenge: Since men can’t get pregnant, which men are in a similar situation?

Young says UPS did give some other workers—employees who were injured on the job or had their drivers’ licenses were temporarily revoked—the light duty she wanted. Therefore, Young says UPS owed her the same accommodations.

However, lower courts disagreed with Young.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reasoned that UPS’s policy was “pregnancy-blind.” UPS wouldn’t have offered light duty assignments to, say, a man who threw his back out by lifting his kid or a woman who injured herself during a volunteer firefighter shift. Since UPS didn’t give all its temporarily-disabled workers light duty, the court found that UPS didn’t have to give light duty to Young.

Many women’s groups, health providers, labor advocates and even pro-life activists strongly disagreed with that ruling.

“If at some point during her pregnancy, a pregnant worker needs a minor adjustment to her job duties in order to continue doing her job safely, the employer has an obligation to provide that,” says Liz Watson, director of Workplace Justice for Women at the National Women’s Law Center.

What happens next?

Young appealed. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case Wednesday and issue a ruling sometime before the end of this term, in late June.

But in a “friend of the court” brief, the Justice Department argues that it might be a moot point.

In 2008, Congress passed a law amending the Americans with Disabilities Act that should make it even easier for pregnant women to qualify for accommodations like the one Young sought. Now, injuries that temporarily limit your ability to lift, stand, or bend should also qualify you for accommodations under the ADA.

And UPS has already reversed its policy. “While UPS’s denial of [Young’s] accommodation request was lawful at the time it was made (and thus cannot give rise to a claim for damages), pregnant UPS employees will prospectively be eligible for light-duty assignments,” the company’s brief says.

In the meantime, what are my rights if I’m pregnant or plan to become pregnant?

You are afforded the same protections as Young through the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. So you can’t be fired or denied benefits. Also, depending upon the size of the company, you may be entitled by law to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Additionally, under Obamacare, employers are required to allow mothers reasonable break time and a private space to express breast milk, Watson says.

I think an employer violated my rights. What can I do?

You can contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to file a complaint, Watson says.

You’ll have more company than you might expect: From 1997 to 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received over 74,000 complaints of pregnancy discrimination.

You can also contact your state’s fair employment practice agency. Some states and municipalities have even stronger protections for pregnant women in the workplace. In the past 18 months, Illinois, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, West Virginia, Philadelphia, New York City, Providence and Pittsburg have all passed new laws, Watson says.

Or call a lawyer. “We unfortunately speak to women a lot who have suffered pregnancy discrimination,” Watson says. “What happened to Peggy Young, being forced off the job because she brought in a doctor’s note, is happening to women all across the country.”

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