A pregnant MP has criticised parliamentary authorities for making her feel as if she has to “choose between being a mum and being an MP” in an attack on the lack of maternity rights afforded to Westminster politicians.
Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow in London, condemned the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) over beong forced to continue to work as normal as she experienced two miscarriages.
Creasy revealed that IPSA fails to recognise any form of maternity leave and will not automatically provide extra support for constituency work after she gives birth.
Writing in the Guardian, she said: “Heartbroken by all the years that I have struggled with fertility, I’ve kept these events to myself and made sure my constituents have never been affected.
“Now I’m pregnant once more and terrified – not just that it will go wrong again, but because I know that my resolve to keep my private and professional lives separate has become impossible.”
No community should be penalised because their MP is a woman- tonight I am going public with the battle with @ipsaUK to make sure there is maternity cover for MPs so that in the autumn Walthamstow is not left without representation: https://t.co/zRylXAjtql— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) June 17, 2019
Creasy wrote that she had carried on constituency work during her first pregnancy despite “aching and bleeding”. Her workload included joining a protest for the extradition of a man who had raped and murdered a constituent. After her second miscarriage, Creasy she said she had to arrange the medical procedure around constituency advice surgeries.
The MP said she had approached IPSA about funding for cover but was told it “does not ‘recognise’ that MPs go on maternity leave”, and that “humiliatingly, it is making me beg for extra staff funding – or give up any chance of spending time with my child to make sure my constituents don’t miss out”.
She continues that a locum would be provided for a GP or vicar on leave and a ‘substitute MP’ would be appointed in Denmark.
Creasy, who also highlighted non-disclosure agreements used to cover up maternity discrimination and the postcode lottery of fertility treatments, warned of the ”prejudices and unhelpful tropes about motherhood” that “suffocate female representatives – whether we have children or not – in a way that is rarely true for our male counterparts”.
“For my work on abortion rights I have been trolled relentlessly with the charge that it is my own childlessness that drives my ‘desire to kill other people’s babies’.”
In January, a year-long trial of proxy voting for those with babies was approved after the issue was highlighted when Labour MP Tulip Siddiq postponed her Caesarean section so she could be wheeled into the chamber to vote.
Harriet Harman has previously called for MPs to get six months’ paid leave, in line with the Civil Service, and be able to nominate a full-time paid “maternity cover” representative for their work outside the Commons.
Siddiq said: “As a politician, I’ve never stopped fighting for women to have control over their own bodies through the provision of reproductive rights and services as the non-negotiable prerequisite of equality.
“As a pregnant woman, this recent experience is another bitter reminder that it’s still often men – this time the IPSA executives – who will make the choices that determine if that battle will be won.”
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