Given Indiana’s abysmal infant mortality and maternal mortality rates, you might think that a bill aimed at requiring reasonable protections for pregnant women in the workplace — a bill that Gov. Eric Holcomb had deemed a priority — would be an easy win.
You would be wrong.
Last week, the Senate voted to essentially gut Senate Bill 342, which would have made most businesses provide “reasonable accommodations” such as more breaks for pregnant women and private places where mothers can pump breast milk. An amendment to the bill, which passed 34-15, simply urges legislative leaders to send this issue to an interim study committee. There’s no guarantee that the issue will ever be heard by a committee.
The bill’s author, Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, said he sees the bill as a common-sense move in a state with the seventh highest infant mortality rate and third worst maternal mortality rate in the nation.
This isn’t radical legislation — 27 states already require such protections — yet it was a no-go in a state where a shameful number of babies don’t live to see their first birthday — and where the rate of pregnant women who die is on par with that in countries like Iraq and Vietnam, according to the Indiana Institute for Working Families.
“I believe women should not have to choose between a paycheck and a healthy pregnancy,” Holcomb said in a statement after the measure failed. “I still believe that and will work over the coming months to persuade the Indiana General Assembly to include these very same accommodations that 27 other states have already enacted. I remain committed to improving infant and maternal health in Indiana so more moms and their babies get off to a better start.”
State Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington, authored the amendment that obliterated the legislation. He told the Senate he is concerned about SB 342’s impact on small businesses, and that it needs more study.
If legislators are interested in studying, the relevant information is easily available. About 41 women in Indiana die per every 100,000 live births — for black women the rate is even worse: 53 black Hoosier moms die for every 100,000 live births. In the face of these and other dire statistics, passing Senate Bill 342 is the least that lawmakers could have done.
South Bend Tribune