|Above: Demonstrators outside the Supreme Court during Young v. UPS.|
[Today's guest post is by Christina Reagan.]
Back in 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed with the intention to protect women from being fired or discriminated against on the basis of pregnancy.
Why then does it not seem uncommon that vulnerable pregnant women are told they have to "get rid of it" to move forward in their careers? And why is this an acceptable reason to end a pregnancy, even if the pregnancy is desired?
It doesn’t take much sleuthing the internet to find many painful abortion stories of women who felt they needed to have an abortion to advance their careers. As I read some of these stories—where some women experience painful, haunting dreams due to making a choice they really didn’t want to make—I keep on wondering, why it is socially acceptable for women to be told they must choose between child and career?
I personally know someone who was told by her superior to "terminate," after she told this person she was pregnant. She chose to keep the child and had to then switch jobs.
Why must a vulnerable pregnant woman feel she must choose between a child and a career? This is a horrible spot to put a woman in, particularly if she is single and depends on that income for survival. Many women are just starting out and are hoping to advance in their careers. They may be advised by well-meaning superiors, colleagues, family, and friends that having a baby (especially if there is no husband involved) will stall their progress or will destroy their careers irreparably. They will never be that person they want to be or have that career they aim to have. What is worse is that they are led to believe they won’t be able to feed and provide for that child should they choose to keep the pregnancy.
As feminists, fighting for women’s rights, don’t we have a duty to protect the vulnerable from being coerced? Don’t we have a duty to ensure that a woman is not hampered in her career progress by her choice to have a child, whether she is single or not and whether the pregnancy was planned or unplanned? Why is abortion encouraged as a solution to a mistimed pregnancy in a young woman’s career? Why can’t we change this system?
In order to guarantee equality for women in the workforce, instead of viewing children as an impediment to a woman’s career, we must view them as a normal part of a woman’s life. Many women work as mothers and are amazing leaders. I have been through a difficult pregnancy, and the encouragement of those around me helped immensely. I had never been more vulnerable than I was at that time in my life, yet because I was so enveloped in love and support towards continuing to pursue my career and education, I did not lose hope. I was strengthened and empowered by those around me, who supported my pursuit of education and career despite the difficult circumstances I was enduring.
It is my hope that we can create these kind of environments for the vulnerable pregnant women in our midst. That they can be encouraged that motherhood and career success are not mutually exclusive. That they don’t have to choose between pursuing a career and having a child.