- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2001

Female candidates for jobs in the District's police and fire departments will not be required to take pregnancy tests as part of their physical examinations, Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday.
"The administration recognizes that any applicant who is physically and otherwise qualified for a position at the time of application may later incur some temporary or permanent physical condition that could impair that individual's ability to complete the training course," Mr. Williams said.
The mayor's office said that, under a revised medical screening policy, physical examinations will no longer include pregnancy tests.
The directive was the result of an investigation by the mayor's office into charges that the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Department had been discriminating against pregnant women.
The Washington Times first reported last month that a 21-year-old medic had an abortion because she and other rookies were threatened with termination if they became pregnant or took medical leave.
A day later, three more women in the department said they had abortions over threats of being fired.
Kenneth Lyons, chairman of the EMS workers union, said Samanthia Robinson, interim assistant chief of operations for EMS, told the medics they would be fired if they got pregnant in their first year. The threats frightened the rookie into terminating her pregnancy, although she is a Roman Catholic, sources told The Times. Catholics consider abortion a grave sin.
Later, three other rookies said they too had had abortions for fear of termination.
Federal and city laws prohibit discrimination against pregnant women.
The mayor ordered an internal review of a letter sent by Fire Chief Ronnie Few to prospective employees.
The letter said: "If you are found to be suffering from any medical disability, which will adversely impact on your ability to perform the duties required by the position you will not be employed."
Mr. Lyons said there were no objective physical tests for emergency medical technicians, and "the only thing I can see that's debilitating is that these individuals might be pregnant."
Tony Bullock, the mayor's interim communications director, said the letter made it clear that "If you're pregnant, you're going to have to defer your employment."
Yesterday, the mayor's office said all applicants who successfully complete the application process, including other aspects of the physical examination, would be appointed in the normal hiring process. If the applicants' physical condition temporarily prevents them from performing necessary duties during the probationary period, their needs would be accommodated and the probation period extended.
"As long as an applicant is able to successfully complete the physical examination and other aspects of the application process, it will be up to that person to decide whether he or she wants to assume the risks associated with the position," Mr. Williams said.
"It is a private decision, and it will be left to each person, male or female, pregnant or not," the mayor said.

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