Pregnant workers could get more accommodations with new Indiana law

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Right now, Indiana has the highest infant mortality rate in the Midwest.

Pre-term labor is one of the leading causes. A new law could prevent some of those deaths.

The proposal would require businesses to meet requested accommodations for pregnant workers, such as more breaks or less heavy lifting. Indiana is the only state in our surrounding area without it.

“The days are long, but the years are so fast,” said Alexis Bushhorn, who just had her second baby three weeks ago. Bushhorn worked during both pregnancies but went into pre-term labor during her first.

“After I did go into the pre-term labor, I went into a desk job, so they did accommodate me, but at first I wish it would have been a little more accommodating,” she said.

Gov. Eric Holcomb is pushing for a new law to require companies to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women.

“It’s all about making sure that we are tackling the pre-term and infant mortality issues in Indiana,” said Jeen Siela, Director of Maternal and Child Health for the March of Dimes. “This is one smart way to do that.”

Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Kristina Box says she knows firsthand how important this is to the health of mothers and babies.

“As an obstetrician I have worked throughout the years to write notes back and forth with employers to say, ‘You know, they really need to stay better hydrated and drink water, they really need to be able to sit down on a stool so all the blood doesn’t go into their legs and then they faint,’” said Box.

“We’ve heard stories about women who have gone into labor pre-term because they didn’t have these accommodations,” added Siela. “They’ve lost their baby because they didn’t have these accommodations.”

Twenty-five other states currently require reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, including Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan.

“We don’t have accommodations for our pregnant women–even things like paid time off–and women and families really need that,” said Siela.

Busshorn would like that time off to be expanded to fathers, too, in order to help the mothers heal at home.

“Maybe postpartum depression would be lower, mother’s guilt would be lower,” said Busshorn.

Ultimately, it’s up to companies to define reasonable accommodations.

“It’s kind of a broad law, but really the purpose of it is to say you need to work with pregnancy providers so that pregnant women can remain in the workforce,” said Box.

Busshorn says she’s fortunate despite the challenges of being a working mother of two children.

“Very big adjustment,” said Busshorn. “But I mean, so far, it has been going great and we are very lucky but not everybody is.”

Box said Indiana’s goal is to have the lowest number of infant deaths in the Midwest by 2024.

She’s confident this newest initiative will help get us there.

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