ANTI-PREGNANCY BILL SPARKS MARIANAS DEBATE

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By Jojo Dass

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (September 16, 2000 - Marianas Variety:/PINA Nius Online)---Representative Stanley T. Torres (R-Saipan) is leading the opposition to legislation introduced by Rep. Dino M. Jones (D-Saipan) which would force pregnant guest workers to go home.

"That's harsh," said Torres in an interview.

The measure is largely seen by some as "sexist, unconstitutional and a violation of basic human rights."

Torres said the still unnumbered legislation could also be seen as "racist." He said Jones should not have filed the proposed measure.

"It's unnecessary," Torres said. " No way (am I going to vote for that bill). You can count on it. No way," he added.

Jones' bill targets guest workers who, other proponents of the legislation said, contribute to the depletion of local and federal government resources by allegedly opting to have babies in the commonwealth and consequently have U.S. citizens in their family.

Jones, in defending his bill, maintained pregnancy is a "choice" and should not be made a burden to the employer and the CNMI government.

The proposed amendment to the laws reads:

"Unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties, no employers should be liable for any expenses incurred by the employee relating to pregnancy or childbirth, and unless agreed upon by the parties, pregnancy may be grounds for termination of the employment contract."

The current stature requires employers to shoulder expenses of their workers medical needs which also include disease and injury.

Jones argued that of the three categories, pregnancy is a financial responsibility that an employer can do without provided the employee is made to pay for the cost of her childbirth.

"Pregnancy can be prevented. It (does not happen) by chance. It's a choice. Let them be responsible. It (pregnancy) is a choice not a chance. It is not a right. It is a privilege," said Jones.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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