Why ‘pro-life’ Christians should support Title IX

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.

See earlier:

Why aren’t ‘pro-life’ groups backing legal protection for pregnant women?

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


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  • AnonymousSam

    And in the interests of full disclosure, the only shame I feel is inherent in someone having an abortion is that society failed to create an environment where that became necessary. I consider it better than the alternative, both in having an unwanted child and even more so in forcing a pregnancy to continue. Pregnancy should never be considered or used as a punishment, and neither should it happen to the unwilling.

    Ideally, the only births that should happen should be to people who are well-prepared to become parents, and if circumstances should abruptly change to put their preparation into question (say, one or both of them lose their jobs), society should be willing to step up and give them all the assistance they need to raise that child as healthy, educated and prepared for a world of opportunities. The fact that this is not the case makes abortion necessary, and anyone who tries to take away that choice is complicit in the creation of unhealthy, under-educated and grimly destined children. That’s an act of evil in my book.

    To respond to you directly, Carstonio, I kind of see a parallel. I think gambling is harmful, but only because of the potential for addiction and the desperation which leads people with few resources to want to gamble in hopes of increasing them. In an ideal world, gambling would be harmless recreation because we would all have adequate finances to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, and the worst that gambling would do is cause us to lose extra income which would otherwise be used to purchase nice-but-unnecessary luxuries.

    (Then again, my economic model includes means by which children and adolescents could have an income doing things which are within their capabilities, so their parents’ indiscretions wouldn’t stop them from having things they want…)

  • Carstonio

    I feel the same way you do about telling people what to think. I’m really advocating a political concept for morality. Obviously anyone is free to believe that it’s wrong for any woman to choose abortion. But if the person seeks to convince others of this, then zie should present a case that’s based more than just personal feeling.

    We’ve seen that too often with homosexuality, where the arguments against it either come down to squick or theology, the latter including notions about nature. No one has to justify hir refusal to act on any romantic and sexual attractions to hir own gender, but no one else has to justify acting on those attractions either. The burden is on any claim that there’s a universal moral imperative to be gay, or one not to be gay.

  • Carstonio


    AnonymousSam: I think gambling is harmful, but only because of the potential for
    addiction and the desperation which leads people with few resources to
    want to gamble in hopes of increasing them. In an ideal world, gambling
    would be harmless recreation because we would all have adequate finances
    to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, and the worst that
    gambling would do is cause us to lose extra income which would otherwise
    be used to purchase nice-but-unnecessary luxuries.

    While I agree, I see that as an argument for preventing exploitative forms of gambling operations, not one for condemning individuals for gambling or preventing them from doing so.

    Dave: I suspect that there are cases about which you would say “Well, that’s
    not really a consent violation, so it’s the right thing to do” and I
    would say “That absolutely is a consent violation, but it’s still the
    right thing to do.”

    Yes, it’s not an either-or. There are instances where the harm caused would outweigh violating the consent. In practice I suppose these would also involve harm to others, or a reasonable determination that they’re not capable of consenting. I’m not really defining morality in terms of consent, although that’s a big part of the principle of avoiding harm. I’m really defining it in terms of interpersonal interaction.

  •  (nods) Yah, that makes sense.

    Incidentally, I should say that I’m really appreciating the fact that we can have this conversation without it turning into a recrimination party.

  • Liralen

    Part of the problem might be semantics.  Your previous post used the word “wrong” and
    now you say “immoral”, but I don’t see the two as being the same.  I’m pro-choice and feel that abortion is
    wrong, but not necessarily immoral.  My
    opinion is somewhat similar to how I feel about sterilization, i.e., it’s none
    of my business, but if someone were to ask me I’d suggest other options if I
    think they might regret it someday.  
    However, there are some very good reasons why sterilization is the best
    option and I don’t think it’s a moral decision.


    My opinion is necessarily based upon my experiences as one
    who was a 16-year old mother.  I received
    considerable pressure to abort from my parents, doctor, friends, school
    officials, and pastor (Unitarian Church). 
    This was shortly before Roe vs. Wade and I would have had to travel to
    another state, but my doctor would have arranged it and my parents could have paid for it.  I refused, ended up beating
    the odds and getting a college degree. 
    Most importantly, my son was the only child I was ever to have.  Everyone who advised me to abort has at some
    point or another admitted that they are so glad I refused to listen to them.  My doctor felt so bad that when he retired
    that he told me he would come out of retirement to care for me if I ever became
    pregnant again.


    My grandson was born into a very unstable marriage that soon
    led to divorce.   My grandson could be a pro-life poster child,
    although I don’t know if my son and his ex-wife ever considered an abortion.  Neither one has any religious objections to
    abortion and their situation made them prime candidates for abortion.   However, my son is well aware of the
    circumstances surrounding his birth.


    I’ve also been the designated driver for a friend who had an
    abortion.   She already had one child and an unemployed husband, and couldn’t afford another baby.  I pretty much sucked at it –
    I cried with her all the way there and all the way home. 


    Nevertheless, I’m firmly pro-choice.  I have had at least 3 ectopic pregnancies that
    required surgical intervention.   The
    first time I had no idea I was even pregnant and probably owe my life to an
    emergency room doctor who was interviewing me for possible reasons for my
    abdominal pains when I passed out.  He
    later told me that I had turned green and fainted, exactly as his wife recently
    did, so suspected the cause.  If this had
    happened in Ireland today, I’d probably be dead.  Back then, there was no question that an
    ectopic pregnancy should be terminated and it frightens me how insane people
    have become over the issue. 

    It also
    angers me that the social support I received after I made the decision to keep
    my baby was so much better than it is these days, principally affordable
    tuition at the state university I attended. 
    So I can’t say that a 16-year old mother has the same opportunities that
    I had over 40 years ago.  That’s really,
    really sad, ya know?  Things are supposed
    to get better over time, not worse.

  • Liralen

    I hate Disqus.

  • Liralen

  • Tricksterson

    Oh, a lot of the usual suspects feel that way.  The reasoning, if you want to call it that, is that money for girls sports takes away money from boys sports and since athleticism is natural to men (said the overweight geek) and unnatural to women you are taking away from those who need it and spending on what is, at best frivolous.

  • Aiwhelan

     I have seriously heard the argument “Women’s sports [softball in this case] leads teenage girls down the path of casual lesbianism”. And lots of people think Title IX=no football or wrestling for boys, which of course is worse than women having no sports at all.