Dr. Megan McInerney committed herself to breast feeding her son for a year, making what she felt was the healthiest choice for him based on medical literature and recommendations from major medical associations.
A breastfeeding mother was initially denied her request for some extra break time during a day-long medical exam to express breast milk for her son. The decision was later reversed. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)
This medical backing that supports the health benefits of breast feeding is why she was surprised that she was denied the time and space to express breast milk through pumping during the breaks for a 10-hour licensing test that cost her $2,200.
"You wouldn't think that as a medical professional, I'd be asked to choose between the health of my child and the advancement of my medical career, but that's exactly the choice that was put before me," McInerney wrote in a post on the American Civil Liberties Union website.
She explained that the exam for the speciality of pulmonary and critical care medicine is only given once a year across the country.
“We give no accommodations to nursing mothers,” the American Board of Internal Medicine wrote to the Indiana University physician, according to her post.
"I was astounded by ABIM's response. First, how could a medical society take a position so antithetical to the medical evidence (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding at least one year)?" McInerney wrote. "Second, where did the ADA come into this? I don't consider myself disabled and am not requesting accommodations as such. I am simply trying to do what I believe is best for my baby.
"Equally shocking was some of the feedback I got from fellow physicians. While some supported me in challenging the ABIM's policy, others suggested I postpone the exam for a year, or even that I stop breastfeeding altogether," the mother continued. "Is this what it means to be a working mother? Why should I have to choose between continuing to breastfeed and remaining on track with my career?"
Reuters Health reported that McInerney tried to reason with ABIM through "unsatisfying" emails, but she then turned to the ACLU.
“You can’t look at it outside of the context of the stereotype that women with babies belong in the home and have no business trying to further their careers,” ACLU attorney Galen Sherwin told Reuters. “To deny these requests puts women at a serious disadvantage.”
The ACLU eventually made a convincing enough case and ABIM reversed its stance, allowing McInerney some additional time to pump twice during the testing period.
"My experience made it clear how necessary this extra time was, as there is no way I would have had enough time without the extra break time provided," McInerney wrote.
Earlier this month, ABIM posted its new guidelines for breastfeeding mothers.
On its website, ABIM stated that it would "consider requests for medically necessary testing accommodations to support nursing mothers." Those who feel they would need this accommodation are advised to contact ABIM with their request and supporting medical documentation when registering for the exam.
Front page image via Shutterstock.