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

Why aren’t ‘pro-life’ groups backing legal protection for pregnant women? July 17, 2012

Sheila Bapat describes the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act:

Amber Reeves, a pregnant truck driver … was fired after requesting accommodations in her work duties. Reeves was instructed by her obstetrician not to lift more than 20 pounds, and her job required her to lift up to 75 pounds. She couldn’t perform her regular duties, so her employer terminated her. Her employer only made modifications like this for people who are injured on the job.

Unglamorous and unprotected by the law, pregnant women in labor-intensive jobs often find themselves in this kind of predicament. This is why the National Women’s Law Center and about 100 other organizations are championing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), a bill that could prevent employers from firing women who are unable to perform all the functions of their job due to pregnancy or who seek some workplace accommodations due to pregnancy.

… There are laws that protect pregnant women from discrimination, but they have not been interpreted to protect women seeking adjustments to their work responsibilities. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was passed over 30 years ago and prevents discrimination “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions.” But the PDA is interpreted to only protect women who are pregnant but not hindered in job performance due to pregnancy or women who cannot work at all and need leave.

It leaves pregnant women — women who need and can continue to work but need some adjustments made to their workload — in purgatory.

Similarly the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also does not serve as a cause of action for pregnant women who are seeking adjustments accommodations at work, as pregnancy is not deemed a disability under the ADA. …

If we assume the best and we take the claims of anti-abortion groups at face value, then we ought to expect those groups to support this legislation. It’s about protecting pregnant women, after all. If pregnancy can mean losing your job, and you need that job, and your kids need the income from that job, well then the status quo without this legislation seems to create economic incentives for terminating a pregnancy. And if we assume the best and we take the claims of anti-abortion groups at face value, we would expect those groups to want to change that.

I wanted to quote from some of those groups, to share their endorsements of this effort as a sign of the bill’s bipartisan support. But I haven’t found any of those statements yet.

I’ve found several women’s groups supporting this legislation. And labor groups. And some liberal church groups. But so far I haven’t found any discussion of this bill among abortion opponents.

Maybe I’m just not looking in the right place, or not looking hard enough. Because I’m sure those groups must be supporting this bill — otherwise it might mean that we can’t assume the best about them or take their claims at face value, and I’d hate to have to think such a thing.

(If you find any such statements of support for this legislation by anti-abortion groups, please post a link in comments below.)

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  • gorgias

    Eh, don’t hold your breath.  I imagine most anti-abortion groups are made up of people who think pregnant women should immediately quit their jobs and take up homemaking.  And if they’re single mothers?  Well, the Right tries not to acknowledge them after the third trimester has come and gone.

  • Nathaniel

    Screw these people, and screw those people who continually vote in “pro-life” candidates who continually fuck over real women.

    These liars for Jesus only have power because of the people who vote for them again and again. 

  • James Hanley

    You don’t get it.  If they’re single pregnant women, they’re shameless whores who don’t need protection.  If they’re married women, they should quit their jobs and stay home to take care of the (impending) child.  /snark

  • DCFem

    This sounds too much like union/workers rights for the anti-choicers. As you know, misogyny, racism, homophobia, climate change denialism, fighting against fair work practices, etc. all go hand in hand with this bunch. They can’t give an inch in one area without it threatening all of the other dominoes. 

  • Tonio

     That was my first thought, but I also remembered of the dichotomy regarding the 9/11 firefighters that Susan Faludi discussed in “The Terror Dream.” They were showered with adoration from people who make a big show of patriotism —  until they asked for assistance with maladies they contracted that day. Then they were slammed as whiners and freeloaders. Faludi suggests that the faux patriots crave godlike heroes, and when the objects of their worship are just as vulnerable to anyone else, they feel deeply betrayed.

    Some of this may be behind the culture warriors’ slut-shaming. Not just about controlling women’s sexuality for the benefit of men, but also about elevating mothers to the status of goddesses. In some cases, the idea that a woman might not want to be a mother, or want to have sex without becoming a mother, might be deeply threatening to such people on an existential level. Subconsciously they might conclude from this that they might never have been born, or misinterpret it as their mothers not really wanting them or loving them.

  • Why aren’t pro-life groups backing protections for pregnant women?   For the same reason that they oppose contraception and are prepared to turn out in force to vote for an abortion profiteer this November.  Because, in short, the assumption of good faith is false …

  • LMM22

    Maybe they’ve changed over the past decade, but I remember during my college’s “Pro-Life Week” seeing the odious posters written by the poorly-named “Feminists for Pro-Life.” When not presenting straw men or misappropriating historical figures, they often spent time telling us what feminists *could* be advocating for rather than supporting abortion rights. (For example, one might support better health coverage for pregnant women or — disgustingly — better rape counseling efforts.) [*]

    I’m not sure that anyone involved realized that they too could be advocating for these policies, and that perhaps that might be more productive than just insisting that others should do their work for them.

    (I did have a brief argument with one of the young anti-abortion protestors on campus one year. They denied that women died in illegal abortions and failed to realize that there are *many* circumstances where keeping a pregnancy would do active harm to the fetus. I’m not sure how one would do it, but I wish that there were some way of instructing them about the dangers of banning abortion. [**])

    [*] Caveat: I may be confusing this with the editorials written by the drama-prone head of the “pro-life club.”

    [**] I have cited, and will continue to cite, the documentary “Abortion and the Law,” which was produced by CBS (?) in the decade prior to Roe v. Wade. Today, it comes across as unbalanced — but, from what I’ve read, it seems to reflect the general public consensus. (It’s been years since I’ve seen it, but, IIRC, by the time they include a rapidly pro-life priest who says the Church “has always been opposed to the taking of life,” we are thinking “what about the women who died?”)

  • Chunky Style

    “Faludi suggests that the faux patriots crave godlike heroes, and when the objects of their worship are just as vulnerable to anyone else, they feel deeply betrayed.”

    Faludi is making the fatal mistake of overthinking conservative throwbacks: they loved the 9/11 firefighters because it cost them nothing to love them, but as soon as those firefighters needed something in return from society, there was a cost involved.

  • JustoneK

    Don’t see those as mutually exclusive at all.

  • hidden_urchin

    Sounds like their perception of a fetus.  It’s an object they can fawn over and advocate for but as soon as it becomes a human with needs and agency they throw it away.

  • LL

    Because women are just empty vessels, unimportant except for their role as incubators for the next generation. Duh. They don’t need rights. They have husbands (they damn well better have husbands). 

  • Where’s Chris Hadrick? I figured  he’d be here by now to complain about the specter of evil business regulations and how the Invisible Hand will take care of women who are fired for being pregnant.

  • Tonio

     I suspect that both phenomena are at work. The adoration that Faludi discusses comes with no emotional cost as well as no financial cost, as long as the heroes live up to the faux patriots’ ideal. The firefighters need emotional support as well as financial support, meaning empathy.

    It could be that the people we’re talking about are incapable of empathy, even though they talk as if they don’t understand the difference between that and sympathy. Or else they might perceive their heroes’ need for emotional support as the equivalent of their god being far less than omnipotent.

  • Lori

    Shhh. Don’t invoke the glibertarian. If we’re lucky he’s gone back to the land of the Ron Paul revolutionaries or somewhere like that.

  • AnonymousSam

    Except where they have decided that single parenting is equal to child abuse (Wisconsin, anyone?)

  • Tonio

    They generally attack both single motherhood by choice and the dreaded two-mommy scenario, insisting on an alleged right for a child to have a father as well as a mother. But they sound as if they’re more concerned about paternal privilege.

  • AnonymousSam

    Yeah, they’re very concerned that without a strong, patriarchal figure to beat them whenever they get out of line, they’ll turn out limp-wristed and homosexual. And since every child born outside of normal circumstances turns out homosexual, has no interest in propagating the human race, and passes on their homosexuality with unerring success to everyone not of devout Christian faith, it constitutes a threat to the entire human race.

    So I can see their point. :'(

    Pardon, must wash my hands from writing that now.

  • Lori

    But not concerned enough to expend half as much energy condemning men who bail on their kids as they spend on condemning single moms.

  • SisterCoyote

    Silly Fred. Rights are for the employers, not the workers.

    In the midst of a unions-rights argument with my dad and stepmom, I brought up maternity leave, and he, a pro-choicer, claimed that if employers were forced to grant it, they should be able to refuse to hire women. If they had to give considerations to women’s health, they should be able to discriminate. My stepmom, who’s a moderate conservative, pointed out that if that was the case, she would’ve lost her job with her younger son’s pregnancy, and when the divorce happened, would’ve had to live on child support alone.

    It will never cease to amaze me how people who are otherwise clearly not sociopaths somehow manage to be entirely devoid of empathy for problems they don’t have to deal with. At least he sort of went “…oh.” I don’t see that happening in no-choice groups.

  • AnonymousSam

    Not concerned? They’re very concerned about fathers who bail out. That’s why they struck down laws and passed new ones which allow a husband to physically abuse his wife, then prevents her from getting a restraining order while simultaneously allowing him to go out and buy a handgun, and prevents police officers from arresting him if he continues to stalk her. Because they care.

    (The last year has presented us some very fucked up legislation, hasn’t it?)

  • TheFaithfulStone

    That’s not a bug, it’s a feature.   The “pro-life” movement is properly the “only the right people are doing it” movement.  It’s got exactly squat to do with being “pro-life”

    Think about this – everytime one of these ‘pro-lifers’ start’s flapping it’s hole about “responsibility” what they are really saying is “keep your legs closed” – and THAT argument is primarily about racist / classist / privilege protection.

    If you’re the kind of person that GETS pregnant (slut) then you ought to have thought about the fact that you’d get fired before you opened your slutty slut legs all sluttitly.

    These  people piss me off, because they make it so you CANNOT have a discussion about abortion.  One side of “abortion debate” in this country is people who want to hurt actual children so that fewer of “those” people have sex.

  • The goals of the Pro-life movement have nothing to do with saving babies.  They want to punish women for having sex and enforce traditional gender stereotypes.

    Getting fired for being pregnant has the twofold effect of increasing the punishment for having sex and forcing some women into relying on the father (even when that’s not a good idea) and staying in the home.

    Supporting the PWFA is the last thing they’ll want to do.

  •  Don’t worry, it’s all part of a master plan to create jobs and revitalize the economy. It might seem like they have a laser-like focus on relitigating social issues that most of us thought were more or less resolved in the 1950s (contraception? really? you’re trying to get rid of condoms now?!) But it’s all to the good.

  • Why don’t you give the bill number? It’s important when contacting your representatives in Congress to include the bill number, so any time you’re writing an article about a bill, you should include it.

    It’s HR 5647

  • Because, if we reverse-engineer our social mores back to the 1950s where they belong, the economic prosperity of that era will magically return!  Right?

  • Chunky Style

    “Sounds like their perception of a fetus. It’s an object they can fawn over and advocate for but as soon as it becomes a human with needs and agency they throw it away.”

    I wholeheartedly believe they go a step beyond that in terms of overall shittiness: to them, the fetus is a punishment for the woman’s sinful ways, an 18-year sentence for not being chaste.  That’s ultimately why they hate abortion: because it would mean letting a woman get away with her sinful ways.

    That’s also why they’re happy to consign mother and child to poverty: if it increases the punishment to the mother, so much the better.  And as for the child, well, recall that they don’t see it as a human being at all, just a punishment device.

  • Chunky Style

    “It could be that the people we’re talking about are incapable of empathy, even though they talk as if they don’t understand the difference between that and sympathy.”

    That could well be the case; Lord knows their theology doesn’t help.  If you have come to believe that all that matters is your personal relationship with Christ, then other people are reduced to nothing but “plot points” in your relationship with Christ.  It’s like that season of “Friends” where Ross and Rachel were dating, except you are Ross and Jesus is Rachel, and every week there’s a new obstacle inserted between you and Jesus, and your job is to overcome the obstacle and reconcile with Jesus at the coffee house.  There’s no room for other people in any of this except as brief obstacles or opportunities to demonstrate your love for Jesus … and after 22 minutes plus commercials, they will be forgotten, never to return.

  • veejayem

    “If you have come to believe that all that matters is your personal relationship with Christ … ” then OF COURSE all of that messy and politically dubious stuff about feeding the hungry etc. doesn’t enter into it any more! Christianity without, uh, being a Christian. THANK YOU Chunky Style! You have given me a comprehensible explanation for the links between certain churches and right-wing politics.

  • Chunky Style

    And so, Satan’s co-opting of Christianity is complete, by introducing the concept of a “personal relationship with Christ” that is more important than actually doing what Christ said.  Oh Lucifer, you are SUCH a trickster!

  • Tricksterson

    No, Satucifer is what you get when you take Trickster, moosh him together with the Horned God (and admittedly the dividing line between the two can be pretty thin) and sift the result through a filter of humorlessness and sexual repression.

  • Dan Audy

    Because, if we reverse-engineer our social mores back to the 1950s where they belong, the economic prosperity of that era will magically return!  Right?

    I believe that the proper term for that belief is Cargo Cult.

  • Antigone10

    I while back, I looked into anti-abortion groups to see what their views on various things were.  While, admittedly, not the most scientific thing in the world, what I got was this: most of them are Christian, led by a guy (and in most cases, guys), against comprehensive sex-ed, against contraception (particularly female-centered ones), against welfare.  Most were ostensibly peaceful, the minority were for violence.

    I have a hard time believing that they would support this, because that would mean actually supporting women.

    (If anyone cares, here’s the archive of my research: http://goddesscassandra.blogspot.com/2008_07_01_archive.html)

  •  I think a “personal relationship” is what Diabolical Human Resources calls it when they assign certain people their own personal lesser demons who follow them around and convince them that perversion and plunder are all God’s will. Kind of like a devil on your shoulder, except with a lot less self-awareness and a lot more homophobia.

  • EllieMurasaki

    tw, suicide


    Because, if we reverse-engineer our social mores back to
    the 1950s where they belong, the economic prosperity of that era will
    magically return!  Right?


    Because clearly the more unwanted children there are and the more
    gay and trans teens kill themselves, the more equal the wealth
    distribution is.

  • Scotlyn

    Health and safety leave

    An employer should carry out separate risk assessments in relation to
    pregnant employees and those who have recently given birth or are
    breastfeeding. If there are particular risks, these should be either removed or
    the employee moved away from them. If neither of these options is possible, the
    employee should be given health and safety leave from work which may continue
    up to the beginning of maternity leave. During health and safety leave,
    employers must pay employees their normal wages for the first 3 weeks, after
    which Health
    and Safety Benefit may be paid.

    Summary of relevant Irish employment law

  • Shhh. Don’t invoke the glibertarian. If we’re lucky he’s gone back to the land of the Ron Paul revolutionaries or somewhere like that. 

    His mystical summons only happen if he gets referenced in three comments on the same thread.

    … shit.