Gender expert labels pregnancy flight-ban 'discrimination'
PREGNANT women banned from flying are being discriminated against by airlines whose reasons aren't backed up by medical or scientific evidence, a gender expert said today.
Many airlines impose a total ban on pregnant women flying past a deadline, which can vary from 28 to 37 weeks of pregnancy.
The self-declared 'fit to fly' conditions on pregnant women are justified by airlines on the grounds of health and safety, says University of Canterbury associate professor Annick Masselot.
But she says there's no evidence to support the ban, and suggests it is instead a form of control to "limit the potential inconvenience'' of dealing with a woman going into labour on a plane.
"There should not be any reason to request a medical certificate or refuse women to board a plane based on pregnancy,'' Prof Masselot said.
"There is no reason to impose such conditions on pregnant women when passengers who might suffer from, for example, high blood pressure or heart problems are not requested to provide any evidence of their ability to fly. Pregnancy is not a form of illness.''
The practice, widespread around the world, could even be illegal, especially in Europe under the Goods and Services Directive, the gender researcher said.
But there has not been any legal challenge, and people don't usually question the flying conditions because of "the existence of widespread and deeply ingrained gender stereotypes''.
"These stereotypes are harmful because women who are pregnant have their right to move limited by airlines for no scientific reason,'' said Prof Masselot, whose report on fighting pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination has just been published by the European Commission