What’s An Unborn Child Got To Do With It?

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/05/15/whats-an-unborn-child-got-to-do-with-it/

What does an unborn child have to do with pregnancy?


According to the Democrats who control the Massachusetts House of Representatives:  Absolutely, nothing.

 On Wednesday, May 10, members of the House considered a bill numbered H 1038 known as the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The bill referred to “… pregnancy or a condition related to pregnancy, including but not limited to, the need to express breast milk for a nursing child.” In essence, the bill strengthened workplace rights and protections for expecting mothers. There was no opposition to the bill.

But an effort was made to expand and improve it. State Representative Jim Lyons, an Andover Republican, proposed inserting the phrase “health of the unborn child.” 

It seemed that clarifying phrase could be added to the bill without much controversy. Thirty-four of the 35 members of the Republican House caucus pledged support.  

“The amendment,” according to Representative Lyons, “was aimed at providing additional workplace protections, in the event a pregnant woman needed accommodations due to the health of her unborn child. For example, any woman who needed to take off from work because of the health of her unborn child would be specifically covered by our amendment.”

The Democrats disagreed. Apparently, any mention of an unborn child, even when it broadens and enhances a popular piece of legislation, cuts too close for the most extreme ideological wing of the Democrat Party. 

Democrat Representative Patricia Haddad, the Speaker Pro Tempore of the House, ruled the “unborn child” amendment out of order, because it moved “beyond the scope” of the legislation. Rather than citing Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 112 section 12k, which defines pregnancy as “the condition of a mother carrying an unborn child,” the Speaker decided that the question of the “health of the unborn child” could not be substantively debated. Instead of the issue itself, only the judgment of the Chair could be challenged in the House chamber. 

Undaunted, Lyons asked for a brief recess during which he double checked the definition of pregnancy in the dictionary. It was neither a Republican nor a Democrat dictionary, but Webster’s. And Webster’s quite affirmed the concept that pregnancy does indeed involve an unborn, developing baby.

A quick use of other sources with respect to the words “pregnant” or “pregnancy” confirms this idea. Oxford Living Dictionary:  “women having a child developing”; Cambridge Dictionary:  “having young developing”; Free Dictionary:  “having a child developing”; Dictionary.com: “having a child or other offspring” or “with child.” Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary sums up pregnancy as the condition of a woman who is going to have a baby or babies.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming Democrat majority in the House was in no mood for dictionary references. After Lyons’s final plea for the inclusion of the health of the unborn child on the basis of his dictionary citing, the Chair ruled his time had expired.

Representative Haddad then called for a House vote. Thirty-four Republicans voted with Lyons and the venerable Noah Webster; 115 Democrats, along with one Republican, voted to uphold the rule from the Chair that unborn children had no place in the legislation.

Now the bill moves onto the Massachusetts Senate, where liberal Democrats hold an even more commanding majority. 

The senators will see a four-page bill with plenty of words and phrases. Pay. Seniority. Benefits. Lactation. Break time. Non-bathroom space. Modified work schedule. Undue hardship. Reasonable accommodation. Food and water breaks. Good faith and interactive process.

They will find references to all sorts of professional persons. Employers. Employees. Psychiatrists. Psychologists. Physical therapists. Speech therapists. Vocational rehabilitation specialists. Midwives. Lactation consultants. Licensed mental health professionals.

In a bill about fairness for pregnant women in the workplace, the Senators will discover nary a word about the unborn child.

Oh well. What does the unborn child have to do with it all, anyway?


Joseph Tortelli is a freelancer writer. He is the brother-in-law of state Representative Jim Lyons, mentioned in this column. Read Mr. Tortelli’s past articles here.