#NMLEG Progressive Bill of the Day | 02-17-15 [UPDATED]

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[UPDATE]: The New Mexico Political Report has a story out today about the fate of Rep. Gail Chasey’s pregnant worker bill, which is now uncertain. CLICK HERE TO READ.


Two innovative bills currently moving through the NM House seek to help New Mexico’s women access healthcare and accommodate pregnant women in the workplace.

Helping NM’s Pregnant Workers

12 states have passed laws requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers and now Rep. Gail Chasey wants New Mexico to do the same.

Rep. Gail Chasey

Rep. Gail Chasey

Rep. Chasey’s “Pregnant Worker Accommodation Act” would require employers with more than 4 employees to provide pregnant workers reasonable accommodations that do not present undue hardships on the employer. For example, if an employer can provide the pregnant worker with a stool so she doesn’t have to stand, or can spread the pregnant woman’s physically demanding duties among other employees during the pregnancy term, those accommodations would qualify as “reasonable.”

More pregnant women are working now than ever before and such work during pregnancy is rife with risk. Fetal abnormalities, miscarriage, and pre-term delivery are all more likely to happen to working pregnant women. Here is data from the Department of Health about working pregnant women in New Mexico (emphasis mine):

Data from the New Mexico Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) indicate that over half (55.5 percent) of women giving live birth in 2012 had a paying job while they were pregnant. Three percent of those indicated that they took no work leave, paid or unpaid, after the birth of their child. That meant they had to return to work on the next business day or take personal sick leave, as negotiated with their employer. Fewer than half (40.8 percent) of women who had a paying job also had paid maternity leave. Women with leave said their decision was strained by the following factors: 37 percent could not afford to take the time off, 37 percent also said no paid leave was available, 28.2 percent indicated their employer did not offer a flexible schedule, 27 percent said they did not have enough personal leave built up to take the time they needed, 16 percent were afraid they would lose their job, and 13 percent said they had too much work to take more time off after the birth of their child.

Some further fascinating (and unfortunate) points from the bill’s fiscal impact report (emphasis mine):

Among the 2012 PRAMS cohort, just 25 percent of Native American women who had been employed during pregnancy had paid maternity leave compared to 40 percent and 50 percent of Hispanic and White women, respectively. In all three population groups about one-third of women said they could not afford to take off the time they really needed and between 13 percent and 16 percent of all women expressed a fear of losing their jobs if they took longer leave. Forty percent of Native American women and 39 percent of White women said paid leave was not an option compared to 32 percent of Hispanic women. A quarter of all women said they did not have enough personal leave to take more time off after the birth of their child.

Rep. Chasey’s bill was heard in its second committee today (it passed its first committee with Republican Representatives Don Tripp, Terry McMillan, and John Zimmerman voting against it). The bill received a do-pass without committee recommendation today, but only after Republican Representatives Jane Powdrell-Culbert, Conrad James, Ricky Little, Tim Lewis, and Yvette Herrell voted to kill it outright.

None of the dissenting committee votes offered any reasons for their opposition to providing pregnant women with more workplace accommodations.


Reducing Abortion and Unintended Pregnancies Through Better Services

A bill introduced by freshman Representative Deborah Armstrong would ensure access to healthcare services for women with the goal of reducing unintended pregnancies and abortions. According to the NM House Democrats:

Representative Deborah Armstrong, a long-time women’s health care advocate and member of the House Health Committee, on Tuesday, along with 28 cosponsors, introduced legislation that establishes common ground on women’s health care by ensuring access to health care services – rather than restricting access.

Rep. Deborah Armstrong

Rep. Deborah Armstrong

“The Women & Family Health and Wellness bill allows members to unite behind a common goal of providing high-quality health care for women, which will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in New Mexico,” Armstrong said. “Unlike other bills, this legislation does not restrict access to care. It provides common ground for all members to stand on – regardless of their views on abortion.”

Specifically, this bill:

  • Ensures reasonable access – through New Mexico health insurance providers and Medicaid – to all needed gynecological, obstetric and family planning services;
  • Ensures access to all FDA approved services, devices and procedures; and
  • Ensures confidentiality for all patients.

This legislation is about guaranteeing access to care,” Armstrong said, “and everyone who is committed to decreasing the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in New Mexico, can – and should – support this bill, rather than bills that would restrict access to services.”

Rep. Armstrong’s bill – since it was just introduced – does not yet have a bill number and has not yet been referred to committee.