Equal Rights includes Working Mothers

2 State Bars Have Done the Right Thing for New Moms Needing to Pump. We’re Making Sure the 48 Left Do Too.

Breastfeeding baby with mom at the laptop

When Kristin Pagano came to the ACLU after being denied accommodations to pump breast milk during the Illinois bar exam, we decided to take action on her behalf. After the ACLU of Illinois sent a letter to the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar, the board agreed to make nursing moms eligible for accommodations – such as breaks and a private room for pumping.

Then another new mom-to-be, Shahzeen Karim, came forward with the same problem — this time in Texas. After over 25,000 people signed a petition, the Texas board also agreed to change its policies.

Now a third case has popped up in Kentucky, where the Office of Bar Admissions has told Jacquelyn Bryant-Hayes that the single lunch break in the 8-hour test day should be sufficient for her, even though she informed the board that her baby will be just four weeks old on the day of the test and her doctor estimated she would need breaks every 1.5 hours. (Setting aside the law, something is just wrong with their math!)

The ACLU of Kentucky is appealing that decision. But obviously, this isn’t an isolated problem. That is why the ACLU and Law Students for Reproductive Justiceare today announcing a nation-wide initiative to ensure that all nursing mothers who need testing accommodations during the bar exam are eligible to receive them, no matter where they are taking the exam.

Why does this matter?

The ACLU has long fought against discrimination based on pregnancy and breastfeeding in education and career advancement. Standardized tests and licensing exams, such as the LSAT, bar exam, medical boards, serve as important gateways to the professions, and they should be administered in a way that is fair to all test takers, including women who need some extra time and a place to pump.

Failure to pump on a regular schedule (typically every 2-3 hours) can lead to serious consequences, like pain and infection. If women are not allowed enough time to pump during these marathon tests, they will be forced take the exam through pain and distraction, risking their health, or will have to put off taking the exam altogether. Women should not have to choose between pursuing their career goals and their own health or that of their babies.

Thanks to the bravery of Kristin, Shahzeen, and Jacquelyn, we’ve already won changes in two states — and hope to win in a third. Now we need to win this for everyone. The ACLU and LSRJ volunteers are researching the accommodation policies in all 48 states left and will follow up with action against state legal licensing boards whose policies penalize nursing moms.

Here’s how you can help! If you (or someone you know) are planning on taking the bar (or another similar entrance or licensing examination) and need testing accommodations, or if you have already been denied those accommodations, we want to hear from you. Tell us your story!

And stay tuned for more opportunities to get involved as the campaign kicks into full swing.

Update – Nigerian Girls

I don’t want us to lose track of the fact that women and girls are suffering greatly in the Middle-East and Africa, so I wanted to bring you this update, originally posted on Vicenews.com, so that you know that Nigeria is doing what it can to identify these rescued girls.  Many of these girls have left Nigeria.   They have been through horrific experiences, and we need to pray for their future health and happiness and healing.


Nigeria Working to ID Nearly 300 Women Rescued After Battle With Boko Haram

By Kayla Ruble

April 29, 2015 | 2:15 pm

After raiding four camps in Boko Haram’s forest stronghold in northeast Nigeria, the Nigerian army is working to identify nearly 300 women — including 200 schoolgirls — who were rescued in the operation.

Though an army spokesman initially stated that none of the women were the missing Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped more than a year ago by the militant group, the military now says their exact origins are still unknown. The women have reportedly been evacuated from the Sambisa Forest region where they were being held, and will undergo screening to determine how they ended up in Boko Haram captivity.

“Now they are excited about their freedom,” Nigerian army Col. Sani Usman told Reuters. “Tomorrow there will be screenings to determine whether they are Boko Haram wives, whether they are from Chibok, how long they have been in the camps, and if they have children.”

Human rights groups estimate that Boko Haram has kidnapped some 2,000 women since the Chibok attack on April 14, 2014. The latest development comes weeks after the one-year anniversary of the Chibok kidnappings, which sparked domestic uproar, international condemnation, and the Twitter hashtag campaign #BringBackOurGirls. Though 57 of the Chibok girls managed to escape, 219 remain missing.

According to unnamed Nigerian military sources cited by the Associated Press, Boko Haram used some of the women rescued Tuesday as “armed human shields,” who fired on the Nigerian soldiers while acting as a first line of defense for the militants.

Gen. Chris Olukolade told the BBC that security forces were able to locate the hostages and the camps using military intelligence. Nigeria’s military initiated its campaign in Sambisa — an area where some believe the Chibok girls may be located — in March, largely waging air raids over the region.

While Nigerian forces — backed by troops from neighboring Chad, Niger, and Cameroon — have pushed back against Boko Haram, the militant group has continued to make advances in the country while further aligning itself with the Islamic State. In images released last week on social media, the Islamic State praised Boko Haram and referred to them as their “West Africa Province.” The Islamic State now has a significant presence in Libya, but the group is still primarily based in Syria and Iraq, raising doubts about the level of coordination with Boko Haram.

Across the border in Niger, local troops took a hit against Boko Haram in violent clashes over the weekend. The country’s ministry of defense reported that 46 troops died in a battle to retake Lake Chad’s Karamga Island. More than 150 militants were reportedly killed in the fighting.

Niger’s forces ultimately secured control over the territory, but Interior Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou said “the village has been completely devastated.” The government announced a three-day state of mourning for 28 civilians killed in the crossfire.

The recent operation in Lake Chad is the latest in a multi-national offensive to thwart Boko Haram. The group has displaced 1.5 million people and killed an estimated 5,500 others over the last six years. Niger’s army chief Seyni Garba told a national television audience that the recent bloodbath would not weigh on the continued mission against the militant group.

“This act by Boko Haram should not rattle our determination,” Garba said.

Follow Kayla Ruble on Twitter: @RubleKB