• Ideas
  • politics

Pregnant Women Are Critical Employees So Let’s Treat Them That Way

4 minute read
Ilyse Hogue is President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Liz Shuler is the first woman elected as Secretary-Treasurer/CFO of the AFL-CIO

Women have never been a bigger part of the workforce than at this time in history. Women are not only the primary caregivers in the majority of households, but we are also the sole or primary breadwinners in a record 40% of households with children. In 2016, our ability to work while simultaneously raising a family is more relevant, and more important, than ever.

But while the rest of the world is living in 2016, far too many politicians—and the worldview they subscribe to—are stuck in the 1950s. Their worldview is one that boxes women into specific gender roles—wife, mother, object.

Look no further than the man at the top of the GOP ticket to see what we mean. Donald Trump has called breastfeeding “disgusting.” He has said that diaper changing and stroller pushing are jobs for a wife. But Trump isn’t an outlier. Republican candidates like Marco Rubio in Florida, Joe Heck in Nevada, and Paul Ryan in Wisconsin have yet to drop their support of Donald Trump in spite of his comments. And it’s no surprise, given the Republican Party’s lack of support for family-friendly policies like paid family leave. In their world, it seems strategies supporting women and families matter less than corporate profits.

Sadly, the GOP’s policies are just a real-life reflection of the Trump view that pregnancy in the workplace is “an inconvenience.”

The view of pregnant workers as an “inconvenience” instead of valued employees reflects a more pervasive form of discrimination against women. As women’s childbearing years often coincide with our prime work years, the impact of reproductive health on our economic security has never been more important.

Pregnancy discrimination is more likely to affect pregnant women in low-wage jobs, yet it plagues women up and down the pay scale. Take, for example, Peggy Young, a UPS driver who was put on unpaid leave when her pregnancy caused her doctor to restrict how much weight she could lift on the job. Or Doris Garcia Hernandez, a Chipotle worker whose manager began restricting her bathroom breaks, how much water she could drink, and forbidding her from taking routine breaks after finding out she was pregnant. She was ultimately fired, despite no apparent lag in work performance and high performance reviews.

These women rightfully combated their employers’ discrimination in court and won, showing countless other women that they do not have to put up with pregnancy discrimination. But that is not enough. We need to elect leaders who will defend women’s reproductive freedom, who will prevent employers from meddling in the decisions we make about our future, and who will protect and expand employees’ rights to negotiate collectively for better working conditions on the job.

We need to change the rules of the economy and enact policies that ensure that working women don’t have to worry about losing their paycheck if they decide to get pregnant. And that no woman has to put off growing her family for fear of being fired.

Some states are already on the right track: just this summer, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed a law guaranteeing pregnant women in Colorado accommodations in the workplace such as bathroom breaks, access to bottled water and the option to sit instead of stand.

We must vote for leaders like Hillary Clinton, who understand that policies that support women and families are not an inconvenience, and they’re not bad for the economy—in fact, studies show these policies improve productivity and employee loyalty. When we elect candidates who know how important it is to give women and families the tools we need to get ahead—accessible and affordable health care, equal pay and protection on the job from discrimination and harassment—our nation will prosper, our economy will prosper and we will prosper.

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors.