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Sunday, January 23, 2011

NY: New bill would grant pregnant women free parking throughout the city

Pregnancy may soon have its privileges.

A City Councilman has a proposal that might turn the swollen feet, achy back and raging indigestion of a difficult pregnancy into a pretty sweet perk: free parking.

"New York is a tough place to get around," said Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn). "If you have a difficult pregnancy, it's even tougher. This should make it a little bit easier."

The councilman plans to introduce legislation next week that would grant special parking placards to pregnant women whose doctors say they have physical or mobility challenges.

The women could then park for free in no-parking or no-standing zones until 30 days after their expected due dates - a cushion of time for those whose deliveries come later than expected - or who need to recover from childbirth complications.

"If I'm on a train and a pregnant woman walks in, I stand up and offer her my seat," Greenfield said. "I consider this legislation to be the same thing - standing up on the City Council for women who have difficult pregnancies."

He decided to introduce the bill after watching his wife struggle through two tough pregnancies. It's similar to laws on the books in at least two states - Georgia and Oklahoma - according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Some women cheered the news as a welcome salve for the lumbering woes of late pregnancy. "Being eight or nine months pregnant is hard anyway, so this is a good benefit," said 29-year-old expectant mom Asma Lat of the upper West Side.

But critics warn that the bill could further entangle the city's mess of parking laws - or even contribute to discrimination against expectant mothers. "Parking privileges for women experiencing difficult pregnancies is a thoughtful idea," said Sonia Ossorio of the National Organization for Women in New York City. "But I don't want to see a short-term privilege like easy parking ... create an environment that further stigmatizes pregnancy."

Workplace discrimination against pregnant women is on the rise already, Ossorio said, and if women say they need special parking spots, it could feed the perception that they're weak. "A lot of bosses just don't think you'll be as dedicated, that you're as nimble or fast, mentally or physically," Ossorio said. "You see women's career paths completely take a wrong turn as a result of getting pregnant and becoming mothers."

Paul Steely White of the transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives said the city already has too many special parking permits - and too many people abusing the system with fake placards and scams. "This would create another group entitled to park on curbs where there is no room already," White said. "Until we have effective enforcement, additional carveouts are only going to create more problems."

The bill would not grant pregnant women the right to park in handicapped spaces in parking lots or give them the right that people with permanent disabilities have to park all day without feeding the meter. "Pregnancy is not a disability," Greenfield said. "It's a temporary condition ... This is the city providing a common courtesy."

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