Notes on the Supreme Court pregnancy discrimination case

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Young v. UPS, which concerns the interpretation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The interpretation being advocated by the defendant would seriously undermine protections for pregnant mothers in the workplace—creating increased pressure to abort. As a result, the case attracted numerous amicus briefs, including one signed by 23 pro-life organizations. While Secular Pro-Life was not among the groups tapped for the amicus brief, we fully support those efforts and would like to take this opportunity to share excerpts of statements from a few of those groups.

All Our Lives and Feminists for Nonviolent Choices (joint press release):

“Our society claims to value children and motherhood so highly, and yet we don’t value them enough to put them before the maximization of profit,” said Jennifer Roth of All Our Lives. “Without reasonable accommodations, a pregnant worker might have to choose between protecting her health and her baby’s on the one hand, and supporting her family on the other. If their lives really matter, they’re worth the cost of a few extra water breaks or a light duty assignment.”

Americans United for Life:

As the Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in Young v. UPS, “the need for society to respect a woman’s choice for LIFE will be front and center,” said Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest. The case involves the 36-year-old Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and whether it offers any real protection to women who choose life for their unborn children. “Pro-life and pro-abortion advocates agree: This case is about protecting pregnant mothers from employment discrimination,” noted Dr. Yoest. “Women should not suffer physical hardship at work or lose their jobs because they are having a baby. Most especially, pregnant mothers should not be refused the same accommodation offered others with similar work challenges.”

Democrats for Life of America:

With oral argument approaching in the Supreme Court pregnancy discrimination case of Young v. United Parcel Service, UPS has announced that (as the Washington Post reports), “[S]tarting January 1, the company will offer temporary light duty positions not just to workers injured on the job, which is current policy, but to pregnant workers who need it as well.” The change in policy was announced to employees and in UPS’s brief filed in the Court.

This is great news for UPS’s female workers, those who are and those who will become pregnant. It also sends a high-profile message that accommodating pregnant workers is the just thing to do, especially when similar physical conditions stemming from (e.g.) on-the-job injuries are accommodated.

Susan B. Anthony List:

The Women’s Law Project and Legal Momentum argued that the previous ruling in favor of UPS was incorrect on the basis of “misconceiving gender stereotypes in pregnancy discrimination.” Americans United for Life has filed an amicus brief, which the Susan B. Anthony List, among other pro-life groups have signed on to, coming from a different approach, standing up for the unborn and women. The brief argues that in creating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Congress was trying to “protect women from economic pressure to abort their children because of pregnancy discrimination.”

So what’s next? The wheels of justice move slowly, and it will be months before a decision is reached. Dahlia Lithwick’s analysis suggests that the Supreme Court might kick the case back down to the District Court so that the record can be developed more fully; if that happens, the issue may not be wholly resolved for years. In the meantime, there’s always the possibility that Congress could step in to strengthen the language of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Stay tuned.

35 thoughts on “Notes on the Supreme Court pregnancy discrimination case”

  1. I don't know how welcome this comment will be here …

    But I think capitalism is the problem here. Let's face it: in terms of service to one's fellow human beings, Young is doing far more valuable work providing for the basic needs of the younger Young than she would be carrying parcels. But because our economic system is capitalist, this work is valued far less than work performed for people who have economic status, and Young will be less able to provide for her own basic needs doing work that is not valued.

    An unborn child can't pay. Unborn children will never be able to pay. And so our culture does not value their protection and the fulfillment of their basic needs.

  2. Capitalism and natalism go hand in hand. More babies = future consumers and cheap labour. Keep people tied down with large families and they can't work their way out of poverty.

    It's just that capitalists don't want to actually pay, in any way, for these babies to be born, or for them to stay healthy. The *responsibility* is all at the feet of those horrible people who choose to have sex! So the capitalists get all of the benefits from a large underclass, with none of the responsibility.

    What's interesting, too, is that a large chunk of pro life legislation has been written by ALEC, a group formed ny the Koch brothers. So, apparently , the Koch brothers want to force every baby to be born, yet they dont want the parents to actually make a living wage…


    Just search Google 'ALEC + abortion'

    And yes, many of the wealthy are pro choice *for themselves*, and not so much for the common person.

  4. Quite.

    Prolifery is an ideology useful to cheap-work conservatives: deny women the right to choose how many children to have, and when, and women become much more vulnerable to employer exploitation.

    There are older and even more evil roots to prolifery, especially in the US, but there's absolutely no doubt that conservatives tend to support prolife legislation making abortion more difficult / more expensive to access, because it ensures more women are more vulnerable to working any hours for lower pay.

  5. I think it's been long since proven that the most effective economic system is socialist government providing essential infrastructure – healthcare, transport networks, communications, etc – and small-scale capitalism providing consumer choice: capitalism ruthlessly regulated by government, of course.

    We can argue back and forth about what constitutes "essential infrastructure" , but no one seriously thinks capitalism ought to be allowed to run *all* essential services, even if we disagree on what constitutes an essential service.

  6. **Unborn children will never be able to pay. And so our culture does not value their protection and the fulfillment of their basic needs.**

    Which is false logic, because if it were true, it would be legal to kill children under 4 years old and quadraplegics. You're trying to put forward the same sort of argument 'We don't think embryoes are people *just because* of their size." which is provably false, unless you can show that pro-choicers think Rick Moranis's kids were somehow not 'people' when they got shrunk to 1/4 inch tall.

    Basically this game (which I am getting very tired of) is picking out some *incidental* quality of the embryo, and claiming that THAT quality is (according to you) the 'real reason' pro-choicers do not regard embryos as human, while continually and desperately handwaving away the actual reasons, such as lack of brain function.

    ** And so our culture does not value their protection and the fulfillment of their basic needs.**

    Tell you what. How about YOU find a way to 'protect and fulfill the basic needs' of an embryo**. I won't stop you. Oh wait, what you really mean by this sad feelie phrase is that our culture won't enslave one person to the sad feelies you have about an embryo.

  7. Okay, you're clearly coming from a place where your underlying beliefs are too different from mine for you to be able to engage meaningfully with what I'm saying.

    I'm not exactly sure where you are coming from–your first paragraph seems to gloss over the very real problems of modern infanticide, child abuse and neglect, elder abuse and neglect, abuse of disabled persons by their caretakers, and a host of other very real problems faced by people who cannot provide for themselves, because they cannot provide for themselves. I'm not sure if you're trying to say you believe that capitalism doesn't cause disproportionate suffering to these groups, or that ageism and ableism don't exist, or if you're just trying to say that these very axes of power cannot be applied to the unborn, because the unborn are not human.

    And the rest of your post just doesn't seem to comprehend the point I'm making about institutionalized bigotry. There's no "one reason" pro-choicers hate the unborn, just like there's no "one reason" misogynists hate women–there are a multitude of characteristics associated with women which are individually hated where found in humans. Do you believe institutionalized bigotry exists at all, or do you have a very different understanding from me of the way that it works?

    But suffice it to say that when I make a comment speculating that a particular event is an example of the intersection of capitalism, ageism, and ableism, I'm not really looking to debate whether ageism exists or whether unborn humans are ~really people~. To be honest, I'm not looking to debate at all, and your comments just feel like they're trying to provoke me into a shouting match that we'd both come out of with a slightly more closed mind and a couple less IQ points.

  8. Citation needed that pro choicers "hate the unborn"

    Lady Black and Fiona are fiercely pro choice, and both nearly died for the unborn.

  9. You are handwaving and trying to avoid the issue. Which is that forced gestationers play this game of ignoring the actual reasons that embryos are treated the way they are, such as having no brain function or feeding off someone else's body, reasons which, btw, would be regarded by most people as reasons to deny ANYONE their 'rights' and selecting some sort of *incidental* quality of the embryo, such as 'small', 'young', or 'can't pay', a quality which no reasonable person would believe to be just grounds for denying someone their rights.

    Your comparison to elderly abuse is a poor argument. Most people disagree with elderly abuse and those who engage in it get in trouble when they are caught. What you are trying to claim here is that because the rights of a certain group may be violated at times, it is 'proof' that most people think that group therefore has no rights. Which is like claiming that since some people are sometimes murdered, there are therefore large segments of our society who think murder and rape should be legal.

    Sorry, but no, for your case to be valid, you'd have to show me large groups of people who supported making elderly abuse legal. Which there aren't.

  10. I think that you're going after the wrong culprit here. Capitalism is based off of free markets, whereas corporatism or cronyism involve government subsidies, bailouts, and the like.

    In reality, the U.S. is not a capitalist state, but rather a corporatist one. True capitalism is the freest economic ideology around (although it hasn't been tried for quite some time), and it ties in well with the overall theme of protecting life and liberty.

  11. Actually, many people do. I think that free enterprise is the best economic ideology because it allows individuals the ability to (as long as they do not harm others) do as they want. Government has a role for combating fraud or disregard for human life, but bear in mind that corporations and entrepreneurs are ultimately the ones who provide all goods. Government just redistributes them.

  12. Sorry, I should have said "no one with any education or common sense seriously thinks capitalism ought to be allowed to run *all* essential services" – I forgot the many silly libertarians who vaguely think for-profit roads, for-profit armies, for-profit police, for-profit Internet, will be as successful as they suppose for-profit healthcare has been.

  13. Doesn't matter. It constitutes aggression against others; it is incompatible with a capitalist system, which entails voluntary associations. Public resources, such as bodies of water, cannot be polluted just because one party benefits.

  14. Well, groundwater is already being polluted from fracking, and the companies don't have to reveal the toxins that are in their chemical soups because it is a trade secret, and any revelation will harm innovation.

  15. And it isn't being addressed now – there is too much money in it.

    And you are fooling yourself if you think that a true free market economy will be any different.

  16. Well, it should be addressed now.

    A true free market wouldn't have subsidies, bailouts, or corporate favors. No more corporate welfare either. The true abusers of welfare in this country aren't the poor; they're the corporations.

  17. What's fantastical is thinking that government has all of the solutions.

    I'm just going to stop engaging at this point. This isn't an econ blog.

  18. Yeah, except for the regulations which legitimized slavery. Slavery is incompatible with freedom.

    I now count two things we can't talk about without you revealing your inability to understand the opposition. Sigh.

  19. Did you know that slavers forcibly bred female slaves and forced them to gestate and give birth?

    Slavers were pro life – they didn't want female slaves aborting their pregnancies.

  20. Slavers put the fetus ahead of the woman. Just like you.

    The individual life of the female slave comes second to that of the unborn.

    Pro lifers are the ethical heirs of slavers.

    Own it.

  21. I didn't resort to ad hominems when answering you. I ask that you extend me the same courtesy.

    Goodness, I had no idea you were a libertarian: I was not committing an ad hom, I was moderately giving my personal view of the ideology that upholds private profit over public welfare. While libertaria

    nism is an intrinsically conservative, privileged ideology, just like prolifery, I do not see the two as intrinsically connected (many libertarians are consistent enough to be prochoice: many prolifers are rational enough to realise public welfare is a basic necessity) and I didn't intend to get into an argument with you about it.


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