Do You Give Up Your Seat for Pregnant Women Riding SEPTA?

A Washington Post article has fueled an online debate.

The Washington Post went ahead and cracked open a big ol’ can of worms this week with a blog post about one writer’s experience riding the city’s Metro subway system while pregnant. She reports that a majority of her fellow riders don’t give their seats to allow her to sit, even now as she’s nine months pregnant (read: very, very obviously preggo) and past her due date.

After comparing notes with a pregnant friend who is also a regular Metro rider, the writer, Dana Hedgpeth, came up with a list of the kinds of fellow riders who are most and least to give up their seats for pregnant ladies. She calls her list “wholly unscientific” (which it is, of course), but her observations are interesting nonetheless.

On her most-likely list:

*Young African American men. They’ve been quick to spring from their seats, regardless if they’re engrossed in music or reading.

*Middle-aged women. I’m guessing it’s because they remember what it feels like to carry a bowling ball with swollen feet and an achy back.

And those least likely to vacate their seats:

*20-something women. Usually they’re too busy texting to look up. If they do, it is a look of “I-don’t-notice-you-or-your-large-belly.”

*Middle-aged white guys. I’ve had one offer me his seat. More often they’ve looked away. I once had a man snarl when I bumped his arm while trying to move to the center of a rail car.

Most fascinating, though, are some of the comments Hedgpeth has gotten on the Post article. More than a few talk (with implied eye-rolling, mind you) about a sense of entitlement that pregnant women seem to pervade when it comes to seats on public transportation. Some examples:

As I’ve said on this blog before, I lived in DC for six years and commuted on Metro for some of that time. So I can personally attest to the madness that is the Metro at rush hour (particularly, that dang Orange Line). While I was lucky enough to never experience what it’s like being pregnant (or on crutches, or in a wheel chair, for that matter) on Metro, I observed many occasions in which a pregnant, elderly or disabled person was forced to stand when no one offered them their seat.

I now ride the bus fairly regularly in Philly. I’m happy to report that at the times I’m on board, my buses are hardly ever lacking for seats. That said, I’ve seen a fair number of elderly people forced to stand when people in the front rows refuse to offer them their seats. It makes me mad every time. I imagine pregnant women don’t have much luck in this department, either.

Before you jump down my throat about priority seating rules on SEPTA, I’m well aware that the letter of the law specifies that priority seating is for persons with disabilities, such as those in wheelchairs—period, end of sentence. In fact, SEPTA’s own website states that “the operator will ask a rider to change seats if they are occupying a priority seat, but under ADA, other riders cannot be required to vacate these seats.”

Fine. You don’t technically have to get up if a pregnant person gets on the bus. Or an elderly person for that matter. But don’t you think there’s something to be said for, um, common human decency in these sorts of situations? Isn’t there some sort of unspoken moral code under which you should feel like a jerk if you’re sitting there playing solitaire on your iPhone while a pregnant woman holds on to the railing for dear life?

Pregnant women of Philly: What’s been your experience riding SEPTA? Do your fellow passengers ever offer you seats? Have you ever asked anyone for their seat? And to everyone else, are you one to spring up when someone clearly more in need wants to sit? Or do you agree with some of the Post commenters that pregnancy is not a condition for which giving up your seat is necessary? Sound off in the comments.

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