Becka Wall of the National Women’s Law Center offers a look at Title IX — the law best known for expanding opportunities for women and girls in athletics.
But as Wall says: “What many people don’t know is that the benefits and protections of Title IX aren’t limited to athletics.”
Wall lists four less-known ways that Title IX benefits women and girls, including that it also requires equal opportunities for girls and women in career and technical education programs, it offers legal protections against sexual harassment and bullying, and offers protections for survivors of sexual assault or rape.
And here’s the big one — the reason that anyone who is pro-life, and not just seeking legal bans to abortion for partisan political reasons, ought to be a big supporter of Title IX:
Protection for pregnant & parenting students
Title IX requires that pregnant and parenting students have equal access to schools and activities, that all separate programs are completely voluntary, and that schools excuse absences due to pregnancy or childbirth for as long as it is deemed medically necessary. In short: pregnancy should be treated no differently than a temporary medical condition.
Yet many pregnant and parenting students still face discrimination in their schools. Take the story of Lisette Orellana, a straight-A student who had taken all the usual precautions and still got pregnant, and instead of support from her favorite teachers, she now faced discrimination and bullying from not only her fellow students, but also her favorite teachers. Despite the fact that it was a battle to go to school every morning and face those who were actively rooting against her, Orellana graduated with honors. Orellana is a rare success story, however — only about one-half of teen mothers get a high school diploma by age 22, compared with 89 percent of women who do not have a child during their teen years. One-third of teenage mothers never get a G.E.D. or diploma, and less than 2 percent of young teenage mothers attain a college degree by age 30.
Or look at the discrimination faced by Stephanie Stewart, a 27-year-old student at a public university in New York City who was told by a professor (in a class entitled “Roles of Women”) that she would not be allowed to make up tests or assignments resulting from any pregnancy-related absences. When Stewart went to the dean and other administrators to reverse the decision, they told her that professors have the right to set their own rules about absences and make-up work. They declined to intervene on Stewart’s behalf and recommended that she drop the class. The National Women’s Law Center recently filed a case on her behalf against the City University of New York.
Pregnant women have advocates in feminist groups like the National Women’s Law Center. In theory, “pro-life” groups should also be forceful advocates for the legal rights, legal protections, and social benefits that pregnant women need. But that help is not always forthcoming. Sadly, the pro-life movement seems more focused on imposing legal limits to the options facing pregnant women than on creating an environment in which such women have greater options, greater opportunities to thrive.
As Pam Spaulding writes, “Pregnancy can still get you fired; where is the outrage from the ‘family values’ crowd?”
Spaulding cites E.J. Graff’s Salon article, “Being a pregnant waitress can get you fired.” Graff outlines the myriad ways in which, if you are poor or working-class and pregnant, every economic incentive is lined up against carrying the pregnancy to term.
That would seem like the sort of thing that people opposed to abortion ought to be upset about, yet we almost never hear even a peep about it from the religious right. Spaulding writes:
Where is Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council on this issue? He’s too busy making the media rounds to get face time as he worries about the Boy Scouts and its ban on gay scouts and leaders. What about John Boehner and other GOP leadership? What about calls to stop persecuting working women with this discrimination by the elected officials around the country that have been focused on passing state-sanctioned rape, er, mandatory transvaginal ultrasound bills? Crickets are chirping.
… It’s time to ask the family values crowd why they have a lot to say about the fetus, and little to say about protecting the ability of the mother to earn a living to support that fetus — or the freedom to hold off getting pregnant in the first place.