Jersey Assemblyman John F. McKeon has floated a proposal to allow pregnant ladies – visibly, ripely, busting-at-the-seams pregnant ladies – to use handicapped parking spaces.
A spokesperson for the National Organization for Women of New Jersey got testy:
“Absolutely ridiculous. Since when is being pregnant a handicap?”
Well, when putting on socks, for one.
At the same time, the proposition is raising the ire of disability advocates, who don’t want to share those precious spaces with the gravid.
The parking proposal begets a few questions: Is pregnancy a disability? And do pregnant women require special parking to help them with mobility and access issues? Since their condition is temporary, can’t they just suck it up for a while?
In order to get paid maternity leave from work, my midwife had to write a note saying that I had become disabled, which is standard protocol for California working moms. This qualified me to collect disability payment from the state for six weeks, beginning slightly before my son’s birth. I remember feeling rankled that I had to go through this charade to get maternity leave. Why not just call it what it is? Wanting to nest, rest, and bond with my new baby after childbirth.
Of course, after getting a deep, wide episiotomy, I was honestly disabled. Before that, I was just big and breathless, with jelly for joints. And slightly bitchy.
When I was in my ninth month of pregnancy, some dude parked in front of my driveway, forcing me to park a block away when I returned home from work. I called the cops to have his car ticketed and towed. Before the cops arrived, I peered out my front window and saw the man returning to his car. I came barreling out of the house with my humongous belly and ripped him a new assshole. He was so apologetic and groveling that I ended up feeling quite sorry for him.
In the hugeness of her third trimester, a friend drove to the airport to pick up her mother, who had flown in from Mexico. She parked her VW bus between two cars, slid down from the driver’s seat and got stuck between the cars. She was stuck for a good 20 minutes, completely immobilized and panicking. Her cellphone was out of reach, there were no passers-by, and her mom’s plane had long since landed. She finally pried loose, injuring herself in the process.
I think the informal but universally recognized policy of crowded bus seat deference should apply here. You’re on a crowded bus, standing room only. You’ve got a prime seat. You willingly give up your seat when a.) a person with a disability gets on, b.) an elderly person gets on, and c.) a woman in advanced pregnancy gets on. There’s a reason for this. We all do it, and those who don’t are jerks.
Some elderly are strong and spry, some women are hardly slowed by pregnancy, and some people with handicapped parking permits have rather mild disabilities. However, these variations should not invalidate the social contract that recognizes that the old, pregnant, and disabled could use a little help moving through the world we’ve created. Why should parking lots be any different than coveted subway seats?