Prince George's County

Legislator accuses Prince George's Co. Council of using her pregnancy to silence her

Prince George’s County Council votes down virtual voting ahead of council member’s maternity leave

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Many have gotten used to working remotely since the pandemic, but there was an ugly debate this week in Prince George's County, Maryland, over whether to allow council members on the all-Democrat council to vote remotely.

The effort involves the county’s first pregnant council member and how that would impact her upcoming maternity leave.

Krystal Oriadha, who represents Prince George's County’s 7th District, was moved to tears discussing it during an interview with News4.

“Sorry. I feel overwhelmed and I feel disheartened and I feel scared, to be honest,” she said. “The pregnancy has been scary for me.”

Oriadha's pregnancy became the focus this week as the council considered making formal rules allowing members to vote remotely – a practice that began during the pandemic.

Oriadha was among those who wanted it to continue, but the resolution failed along the council's two divided voting blocs.

During testimony on Tuesday, Oriadha shared, “I’m a high-risk individual; I’ve been hospitalized multiple times while still serving on the dais, taken to the hospital from the county admin building.”

Former Chair Calvin Hawkins made clear that his vote against the resolution was about busting the power of the majority voting bloc of which Oriadha is a part.

“Councilman Oriadha, you keep making yourself the victim … I’ve sat in this chair and listened to your moralistic holier-than-thou comments,” he said during testimony.

“We are a council of 11,” he went on to say. “You all since December have made it a council of six. Let's set the record straight and talk real talk if we are going to talk real talk.”

Former state Delegate and current Council member Wanika Fisher also voted against the virtual option in the name of what she called “good governance.” She used a state delegate’s difficult childbirth as an example for why, saying, “She not only gave birth; it was very intense … She was on crutches the entire session and there was no concession given.”

But others defended Oriadha, including Council member Ed Burroughs, who tends to vote with Oriadha.

“I am deeply disappointed in my colleagues,” he said

In an interview today with News4, Oriadha said some of her colleagues are using her pregnancy to silence her.

“God forbid, if anything happens, then I'll blame myself that I didn't stop, that I still showed up, I still pushed myself when I knew that it was complicated, and I knew I should have taken a step back,” she said.

The Vote Mama Foundation, a group that works to break down barriers prohibiting mothers from serving in public office , had some stats on mothers in state legislatures. It says 85% of American women are mothers by the time they are 45 years old, but in 2022, moms of minor kids only made up 5% of state legislators. Almost 4 million American women give birth each year, yet only 12 women serving in state legislatures gave birth in the past year, and just three of them were Black mothers.

Hawkins addressed his comments and vote in an interview with News4, saying, “Her (Oriadha’s) situation as a pregnant mom did not come up until five council members voted against virtual voting. Then it became you all against us … and that’s not what it was about.”

Hawkins went on to say Oriadha should be at home, taking care of her unborn child. 

Oriadha said she will not allow Tuesday's vote to stop her resolve.

“If I’m forced to show up the day after I give birth on the dais with my child breast feeding, I will do that,” she said.

In January, the Montgomery County Council addressed virtual voting and passed new attendance rules allowing members to attend and vote virtually.

Prince George’s County Council Chair Tom Dernoga said he will extend the legislative calendar deeper into November to give Oriadha time to return and vote.

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