Franklin County

Bill would let pregnant women park in spots reserved for the disabled

An amenity called stork parking, already offered by some retailers around the state, could soon become law in Kentucky.

Pregnant women and parents of children under the age of one would be allowed to temporarily park in spaces reserved for the disabled under a bill filed this week by House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

"I spoke with an expectant mother who brought this to my attention, and I agreed that it was a good idea," Stumbo said Wednesday. "It's a measure that recognizes the short-term assistance we can all give to mothers-to-be and new mothers."

The idea created controversy when California's legislature considered it last year. Proponents touted the proposal as a way to protect the safety of parents and children, but opposition came from advocates for the disabled and from some who thought it promoted the misconception that pregnancy is an illness. The measure failed in a legislative committee.

Anne Rust, owner of Baby Moon, a wellness center for pregnancy and motherhood in Lexington, says she can see both sides of the issue.

As a mother of two small children, Rust says that a closer parking spot can be safer for parents who are trying to navigate a busy lot with their baby and baby gear.

But Rust says that, in most cases, pregnant women shouldn't curtail their activity. "Pregnancy is not an illness or a disease. It's just a healthy phase of life and its important to reinforce a healthy lifestyle, including walking and exercising," she said.

Under the bill, a placard for an accessible parking space issued to a pregnant woman would be valid until one month after her expected due date as reported by her physician. A placard issued to a parent of a child under one would be valid for one year after the child's birth date.

A statement from a licensed physician providing proof of a pregnancy would be required for an expectant woman and a child's birth certificate would be required for new parents seeking a placard.

There would be no charge for the placard, which would hang from the front windshield rear-view mirror or be displayed on the dashboard. People wanting the placards would apply in the county clerk's office.

The national retailer Baby's R Us already offers such parking, as do various other stores around Kentucky.

Jamie Beal, a spokesperson for Babies R Us, said its part of the store's mission to make things easier for expectant mothers.

"Some prefer to park farther away to exercise," Beal said, "while others choose convenient parking, especially when they are in their third trimester."

Stumbo calls the proposed measure "a safe and effective protection and convenience."

But David Allgood, a community advocate for Louisville's Center for Accessible Living, said that expanding the number of placards that entitle people to park in a set number of spaces will compound the problems that disabled people already have finding a parking spot.

"There is already enough fraud and abuse with the placards as it is now," Allgood said.

At the least, Allgood said he hoped that extra spaces could be designated to accommodate expectant mothers and new parents, so that spots wouldn't be taken away from people with physical disabilities. The bill doesn't call for extra spaces.

House Bill 151 has been referred to the House Transportation Committee for its consideration.

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