Slo-Pitch National Bans Pregnant Women

posted by Women in Sport International
Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 5:22pm EDT

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Yes you read that headline right.
I played my first games of the in the Ottawa-Nepean Slo-Pitch League last night with the Blue Devils and the Loose Cannons. Before both games (at two different diamonds, with two different umpires and two different team captains) we were asked to sign league rosters and waivers of liability. We were also told that we were to remove any jewelry. Very standard stuff.
Then came- for me- the big "Are you serious" moment.
The teams were told that no pregnant women could play.
Last year a woman on our team, who shall not be named as she may have been playing against the "rules", played the whole season pregnant. Is this shocking? I do not think so.
Could this whole "Pregnancy Rule" be a misunderstanding? I thought I would do a little research into where on earth the umpires and our team captains would hear of such a silly and outdated rule.
Turns out the rule comes straight out of the Slo-Pitch National Rule Book, page 22, section 5. The rule clearly reads:

Sec. 5 PREGNANCY RULE: If it is evident and/or confirmed to an official that a player is pregnant, then for reasons of safety and for the possible detrimental effect that such participation may have on other players’ performance, SPN will not knowingly allow a pregnant player to play.
EFFECT Sec. 5 The player will be requested to remove herself from the game and if she refuses, the umpire will eject her.

The rule book does not indicate how long this rule has been in place.
I play roughly 4-5 softball games a week and have played softball since I was a small child. I have seen players ejected for swearing, fighting, spitting, throwing bats, yelling at the umpire, but never for "if it is evident and/or confirmed to an official that a player is pregnant." Interesting how the rule book uses the term "player" when clearly the rule only applies to women.
The women on my first team did not comment about the rule. Possibly because most of them were young and probably not thinking of the implications of such a rule. The women on my second team, many of whom have children and had played sports while pregnant, let out a collective "are you serious?"
If this is not outright discrimination I do not know what is. Women should have the choice to participate in sports, whether or not they are pregnant. I can understand if a league is concerned about extra liability they may incur by "allowing" pregnant women to participate in their games, but this is nothing an extra line on their extensive limitation of liability waivers could not solve.
Here is a short list, compiled with about 5 minutes of research of women athletes who have played their sport while pregnant:
Kara Goucher and Paula Radcliffe: Marathon Runners

  • Both of these women trained extensively throughout their pregnancy, including the week, and the day, the baby was born.

Jennie Finch: Professional and Olympic Softball Player

  • Pitched, coached and played softball while pregnant, into her third trimester.

Catriona Matthew: LPGA Golfer

  • Won the Brazil Cup while 5 months pregnant

Candace Parker: WNBA Star
Kerrie Walsh: Olympic Gold Medal Volleyball Player
Not to mention the numerous amateur, casual female athletes that continue to play sports every day while pregnant.
Dr. Raul Artal is the chairman of obstetrics, gynecology and women's health at Saint Louis University. He is a leading expert in women remaining athletic while pregnant. "I strongly believe pregnancy should not be a state of confinement. If there are no complications, and a woman is willing to continue to train, she can" he said in an interview to ESPN.
For more than 30 years, Artal has conducted research on the impact of exercise on pregnancy and has written books on the topic for both amateur and professional athletes. He has even worked with well-known athletes who continued to train and play their sport while pregnant.
I wonder what kind of research Slo-Pitch National has done?
WHY I WILL CONTINUE TO PLAY SOFTBALL WHILE PREGNANTI am not pregnant but it is likely that one day I will become pregnant. It is a fact of life. I will not and cannot stop playing softball when I become pregnant. It is part of who I am and part of my life. It has been for a long time and will continue to be so as I age, have babies, get hold, have knee replacement and hip replacement surgeries and lose all talent.
If Slo-Pitch National thinks it can stop pregnant women from playing it should think again.

Erin DurantB.A., J.D. (Candidate, 2011)Former member of the University of Ottawa and Queen's University Softball Program

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