Reposted with permission from the blog of Law Students for Reproductive Justice.
Recently, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), the organization that administers the LSAT, refused to accommodate a nursing mother who asked for additional break time to pump her breast milk. You can read more about it here. Two members of the LSRJ family want to share their thoughts on the situation: new mom Sara Taylor (’11, University of Michigan Law School) and resident blogger Joanne Caceres (’13, Harvard Law School).
To take action, visit the ACLU Women’s Rights Project website.
I am writing to ask you to seriously reconsider the Law School Admissions Council’s alleged policy of refusing accommodations for breast feeding women during the LSAT. Breast feeding is not an ethos, it’s a serious physical issue that deserves serious consideration.
As a nursing mother, I would not think twice about asking for accommodation. Having to be away from my infant and pump is an incredibly inconvenient enterprise, and one that I have to engage in as a working mother who ascribes to medical studies that breast milk has marvelous and unparalleled health benefits for my daughter. I already have to suffer a great many social consequences for this choice. This is the new century but people are no less disparaging of breast feeding in public. While out, there are no outlets or chairs in public restrooms. I have frequently had to feed my daughter bent over a changing table or sitting on a toilet. While working, I have to find twenty minutes and an available conference room with a locking door and no windows, then I get to carry my pump equipment to the bathroom to wash it and find a spare spot in the fridge for all to see. But I do it willingly, I do it for her.
I recently received a job interview that required travel. I asked if, as a nursing mother, I could bring my daughter. In the alternative, I asked to be gone no more than two days because I would have to pump milk ahead of time (which is exhausting and laborious).
The schedulers went out of their way to accommodate me, letting me take my daughter as a lap infant and making sure travel was short and that I had everything I needed. And they did so as a pure matter of course, no problem at all. I thought to myself, how wonderfully far we’ve come, when ten years ago I would have been afraid to mention that I was a mother when going to an interview, and I can now mention it and no one thinks twice.
When a nursing mother tells you they need time off to pump, they are not asking for any favors. A pump isn’t the functional equivalent of a child; it doesn’t get all the milk out, reduces output later, extracts milk forcefully, and it requires lugging the pump around, washing out all the parts, and finding a way to store or dump the milk. Pumping for 20 minutes doesn’t yield much milk and it takes about 45 minutes just to do it. Plus, having that many calories removed from you at once is exhausting! It’s a major hassle – it is not something one would choose to do unless they needed to do it.
Disappointingly few mothers are applying to law school and their perspective is both meaningful and worth cultivating. Let’s try and minimize their barriers to entry wherever possible. Pumping itself is a barrier, why in the world would you make it harder than that?
A proudly pumping attorney,
Sara Taylor (’11, University of Michigan Law School)
I’m sure anyone who keeps track of reprorights issues has heard about LSAC’s refusal to accommodate a nursing mother during the LSAT. After outreach from the ACLU, MomsRising and other advocates, LSAC’s response was that it was under no legal obligation to provide such accommodations. We should be mad at the policies of LSAC, and reach out to let them know this behavior isn’t acceptable. However, what is most troubling to me in not that in this day and age an organization could be so callous, it’s that we are moved to public outrage and letter writing because LSAC is right, they have no legal obligation to accommodate a nursing mother who is not an employee. I think that’s the real problem.
For all the benefits and advances women have thanks to Title IX in school and Title VII in employment, moments like these should remind us that those two laws do not encompass all of society. The most recent outrage with LSAC is a great illustration of the role private businesses—who may be restricted from discriminating against female employees but not clients—can affect something as fundamental to the American notion of equality as education.
So what should be done? Don’t let this blog serve to keep you from writing to LSAC. Public shaming does work to make single organizations fix audacious behavior in some instances. It may even cause other testing companies (whose policies I don’t know) to think hard before denying a similar request from a nursing mother in the future. Perhaps a case can be made to extend Title IX to private organizations whose services are used for entry into an educational program or activity that accepts federal funding. But if we want to promote more systemic change, I think we need better laws to protect women’s rights outside of work and the classroom. To do that, we need more pro-women politicians in office!
Joanne Caceres, Harvard Law School