Flying while legally pregnant
Leah Donaldson

I wear many hats these days. I’m a lawyer. I’m a daughter. I’m a friend. I’m a mother-to-be.

In the mommy-to-be department, I’m finally far enough along that I finally LOOK pregnant, not just “fat.” Just a week ago, I started to feel the flutters of movement inside my belly. This experience is becoming more and more real every day.

Being pregnant does come with benefits, but just because I’m pregnant doesn’t mean I stop working—and with my work come certain obligations. One of those is travel.

So, tomorrow I fly!

But that’s ok. I’m used to flying. My work requires quite a bit of travel. I also worked in commercial aviation for 6+ years before I became an attorney. I began as a flight attendant and worked my way to the position of emergency response manager for a regional airline following 9/11. Traveling four days a week became second nature to me.

You could say that I know too much about the ins and outs of flight safety and aircraft accidents. The more I’ve learned, however, the more secure I’ve felt about flying the friendly skies. Now, because of my current work as a plaintiffs’ attorney, you could also say that I know too much about product safety – and that it’s a wonder I ever leave the house. But for me, knowledge is power. The more the merrier!

When I fly tomorrow, for example, I will opt out of the full body scanner at security (backscatter machine) for safety reasons. As a non-pregnant person, I succumbed to the machine every time I flew. I researched the technology being used and felt it was safe for me to do so. Since I’m now thinking and acting for two, I’ve read more about the backscatter machine and its effects on a developing fetus. After reading several conflicting reports, I have chosen the “better safe than sorry” route. I simply budget extra time in the security line to wait my turn for a pat down instead of going through the backscatter machine.

As part of the Freedom of Information Act, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) makes available all of its studies on X-ray screening technology on its website. Read the information and decide for yourself.

The first time I requested to opt out of the backscatter machine, I did not yet look pregnant, so the TSA agents eyed me warily. But now that I actually LOOK pregnant, the agents are extremely kind and accommodating about my request. Maybe I should add that to my growing list of the benefits of being an expectant mom.

Leah Donaldson

About Leah Donaldson

Leah represents people harmed by allegedly defective medical devices, including the Composix® Kugel® Mesh hernia patches in cases filed in Rhode Island state court and hundreds of federal cases transferred to Rhode Island District Court's first multidistrict litigation. She additionally works on behalf of lead poisoning victims, representing children harmed by lead paint and their families against property owners. Leah serves as President of the Rhode Island Women's Bar Association and is a member of the board of directors. She is also a member of the American Association for Justice, the American Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union and American Mensa. View Leah's full bio.

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