- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2001

A D.C. medical worker aborted her child for fear of losing her job after she and other rookies were threatened with termination if they became pregnant or took medical leave, according to fire department sources, a union official and a lawyer.
A top official from the fire department's Emergency Medical Service told about eight medical rookies last month that they could not become pregnant because they are on probation for a year and have no rights, according to the medical union's chairman, five department sources and union attorney Louis Malone.
Union Chairman Kenneth Lyons and the sources said the official is Samanthia Robinson, interim assistant chief of operations for EMS.
"The female medics were told if they get pregnant the first year, they will be fired," said Mr. Lyons.
A rookie, who was pregnant at the time, expressed concern to Ms. Robinson when supervisors were giving out ambulance assignments, the sources said.
Ms. Robinson then told her she should get an abortion if she wanted to keep her job, Mr. Lyons and the sources said.
Ms. Robinson "basically strong-armed her into getting an abortion," said a fire department source who has spoken to the rookie about the problem.
"Those comments are blatantly illegal," and violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, said Mr. Malone, who represents AFGE Local 3721, whose members includes medics and emergency medical technicians in the department.
The threat of termination and Ms. Robinson's suggestion so frightened the woman that she terminated her pregnancy, even though she is a Roman Catholic, said sources, including one who has spoken to her about the problem.
Catholic belief holds that abortion is the killing of innocent life, and is a grave sin.
The woman got the abortion "directly as a result" of Ms. Robinson "telling her she couldn't keep her job and be pregnant," said a fire department source who has spoken to the woman about the situation.
D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief Ronnie Few yesterday said through a spokesman that the matter has just now been brought to his attention, and it will be examined fully.
"This allegation is not department policy," said department spokesman Alan Etter. If the events did occur, he said, the chief considers the matter very serious.
The woman, 21, is trying to avoid publicity because she is still distraught, and the abortion has caused a rift with her family, several department sources said.
"She is young, religious, scared and ashamed," said one source. "She feels she has morally abused herself."
Other department sources, including a medic who recently worked with her, echoed that characterization.
"This poor girl. She's a young girl, naive and would do anything to save her job," said one medic who has worked with the woman. "She was given the impression that that's what she had to do for her job, so she went out and did it."
The woman, who is engaged, has suffered medical problems since the abortion, according to Mr. Lyons, medics who have worked with the her and other department sources.
Several department sources who have worked with the woman have described her as "distraught."
Officials with the medic union have been collecting statements from the rookies who said they were threatened. Many have been hesitant to provide the written accounts because they fear retaliation, Mr. Lyons said.
Mr. Lyons told The Times that he raised the matter with Chief Few, and the chief later told him that Ms. Robinson denied making the statement.
Mr. Malone confirmed that Mr. Lyons had brought the matter to Chief Few in the past several weeks, and that the chief issued a denial.
One source said the woman has been subject to harassment by supervisors as word of the incident has spread within the department.
Mr. Malone said at least 10 women in the department have called him in the past few weeks to recount other incidents where officials discriminated against them because of pregnancy.
"When they heard about this, it has really triggered their consciousness," he said.


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