The U.S. Supreme Court has the uncommon opportunity to please both pro-life and pro-choice advocates at the same time.
The justices struggled with the meaning of a federal law barring discrimination against pregnant workers during oral arguments Dec. 3 in a case that has united representatives of both sides of the abortion debate. The protection of mothers in the workplace has brought together at least this time those who disagree on abortion rights, including such pro-life organizations as the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), Americans United for Life (AUL) and Bethany Christian Services with such pro-choice advocates as the ACLU, National Education Association and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
These organizations urged the justices in various friend-of-the-court briefs to find that United Parcel Service (UPS) violated a 1978 law, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), in its refusal to allow Peggy Young to take on lighter duty during her pregnancy. Young sued UPS in response to a policy by the package delivery company that resulted in her taking unpaid leave and losing her medical coverage while pregnant.
Supporters of Young's position contended in pre-argument statements for the rights of pregnant employees.
"Being pro-life means standing both with unborn children and with their mothers," ERLC President Russell Moore said. "Pregnant women should not have to decide between loving their babies, caring for their health and making a living."
Charmaine Yoest, AUL's president, said, "Pro-life and pro-abortion advocates agree: This case is about protecting pregnant mothers from employment discrimination. Women should not suffer physical hardship at work or lose their jobs because they are having a baby. Most especially, [they] should not be refused the same accommodation offered others with similar work challenges."
Lenora Lapidus, director of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, said, "Employers and courts nationwide still aren't getting the message that the same temporary accommodations provided to injured workers must be provided to pregnant workers. The Supreme Court must make it clear that this type of discrimination is unlawful and that no woman should have to choose between her job and a healthy pregnancy."
For the pro-life organizations, however, the case certainly has an abortion component.
Ovide Lamontagne, AUL's general counsel, told Baptist Press it is important to understand "the policy behind the Pregnancy Discrimination Act isn't just the workplace but it's also a public statement to support women so they make the decision to keep their children, not to have an abortion."
"If women aren't given the kind of protection in the workplace that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act gives them, they're more likely to feel like they have no other choice in order to keep their jobs, in order to preserve their economic status than to seek an abortion," said Lamontagne, who attended the oral arguments....
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