‘Pro-life’ groups still silent on protecting pregnant workers

A few weeks ago we looked at the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (HR 5647), a promising and necessary piece of legislation currently stalled in Congress.

You can download a fact sheet on the bill from the National Women’s Law Center, which explains that the PWFA would “let pregnant women continue to do their jobs and support their families by requiring employers to make the same sorts of accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions that they do for disabilities.”

If you’re a disabled worker, then you’re protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you’re a pregnant worker and not hindered in job performance, or if you’re pregnant and completely unable to work, then you’re protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. But if you’re a pregnant worker and able to perform some, but not all, of the functions of your job, then you slip through the cracks and you’re SOL. That means that some pregnant women may be forced to choose between keeping their job and keeping their pregnancy.

Now, since the “pro-life” and “pro-family” movements of the religious right are all about preventing pregnant women from choosing not to keep their pregnancies, this would seem like legislation they ought to be supporting.

And yet, as I noted last month, I haven’t yet seen any support for this, or even any mention of it, among such groups. The PWFA would help to remove one powerful economic incentive for abortion — a real situation that real people face. Anti-abortion groups therefore ought to support it. But if any of them are supporting it, they’re doing so very, very quietly.

Maybe I’d just missed their statements backing this bill? To double-check, I asked the folks at NWLC if they had heard of any support for this workplace protection from anti-abortion groups. Liz Watson, a senior advisor at NWLC, responded:

Supporting pregnant workers so that they can continue their jobs and have healthy pregnancies, is something people of all political stripes should agree on, regardless of their stance on other issues, including abortion. As yet, we are not aware of any support from pro-life groups, however.

One possibility is that these groups are simply not yet aware of this legislation. In that case, one hopes, they will learn of it soon and bring their powerful political muscle to bear in rallying congressional support so that pregnant workers “can continue their jobs and have healthy pregnancies.”

There are other possibilities, but I’ll avoid outlining them here, as the implications from those other possibilities all tend to make these groups look pretty bad — to make them look, in fact, like duplicitous agencies whose alleged concern for “the unborn” will always take a back seat to their paramount concern with controlling uppity women.

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