I’m very pleased to tell others about a “friend of the court brief” brief, filed in the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday by Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) and 22 other pro-life organizations in Young v. United Parcel Service, an important case involving the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (the PDA). The brief, which supports the pregnant employee who filed suit against UPS, is by pro-life organizations from across the political spectrum, from Concerned Women for America and the Southern Baptists to Feminists for Nonviolent Choices and DFLA. Here is the DFLA news release summarizing the case (and also linking to the brief). I worked on the brief on behalf of DFLA.
The filing of the brief makes important statements that are crucial in our society, polarized as it is over the “life” issue and how to address it. In this, a variety of pro-life groups with different missions, who disagree on other things, have come together to emphasize that supporting pregnant women is a fundamentally pro-life position. I suspect that, in our polarized atmosphere, some people may be surprised that a bunch of pro-life groups have filed to support working women—so please spread the news!
The case involves Peggy Young, a driver for UPS who became pregnant and, based on the doctor’s note concerning lifting restrictions, sought to be switched to “light duty” work for the remaining few months of her pregnancy. UPS had provided such an accommodation for several significant categories of employees, including those injured on the job, those with disabilities, and those who had lost their commercial driving license for various medical reasons—but it refused to accommodate Young. She was forced to take an unpaid leave and lost her employer-provided health insurance for several months. Young sued under the PDA, which requires that pregnant women be treated the same as other employees “similar in their ability or inability to work.” Although UPS had made the accommodations mentioned above, the lower courts ruled against Young because there were other categories of employees UPS had not accommodated (e.g. off-the-job injuries); essentially, the court said that pregnancy was not discriminated against if it was treated no worse than those and was not ”singled out” for denial. Young is seeking reversal in the Supreme Court.
The case raises an important issue concerning the effectiveness of the PDA’s protection for pregnant employees, since many employers make accommodations for some but not all employees with physical limitations. The pro-life organizations’ brief argues that pregnancy should be treated as well as conditions the employer deems important enough to accommodate, not as poorly as conditions the employer refuses to accommodate. The brief points to the background of the PDA, which had support in 1978 from pro-life groups and pro-life members of Congress. Their rationale was that protecting pregnant women from discrimination reduces pressure on economically vulnerable women to abort their children, and helps support the fundamental right to bear children and raise a family. The brief makes those very same arguments.
Cross-posted (with minor changes) at Mirror of Justice
I recently watched the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Michael Boggs, President Obama’s pick for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. As a Democrat, I was appalled by the line of questioning by the Senate Democrats, who never steered away from attacking the pro-life views of the nominee to focus on other issues relevant to his qualifications.
It is one thing for abortion rights groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood to opposed candidates and judges who hold a pro-life position. They hold selfish reasons for doing so. Abortion is their livelihood. It is another thing for senators, who are charged with vetting judicial candidates, to ignore their responsibility and instead represent the minority views of one industry.
With all the talk about contraception and abortion, we wanted to reinforce what we, as pro-life Democrats, have articulated for years. Give pregnant women a real choice by providing support to carry the child to term.
Statistics consistently show that financial concerns are the number one reason women choose abortion. Our Pregnant Women Support Act signed into law in 2010 is taking that reason away and providing assistance to women who do not want abortion but lack the necessary resources or support to carry their pregnancies to term. You can read some highlights here.
** The following was published in The Hill – Congress Blog **
Last I checked, the Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird decisions, which provided a constitutional right to contraception for married and unmarried couples, still stand. No one has been denied access by law.
So what is all the fuss with the Hobby Lobby decision? Why is there a flurry of bills addressing abortion and contraception in the U.S. Senate? Did the Supreme Court ban contraception or women’s access to contraception in their recent ruling?
The answer is no.
DFLA’s senior fellow Robert Christian, of the Millennial blog, writes at Time on why Catholics–and you could add, people of all faiths and convictions–have reason to support the President’s policy proposals to help working families: “greater workplace flexibility, paid family leave, an increase in the minimum wage, increasing access to affordable quality childcare and greater protections for pregnant workers.” Well said, Robert.
The Supreme Court unanimously decided Thursday that Massachusetts violated the First Amendment by excluding speech from a 35-foot “buffer zone” around abortion clinic driveways and entrances. McCullen v. Coakley is a victory for pro-life speech rights, although just how broad a victory is uncertain. The majority opinion by Chief Justice Roberts ruled for the sidewalk-counselor plaintiffs but rejected their argument that the Massachusetts law in question discriminates against pro-life speech. Before I discuss the implications of those holdings, let me highlight a different, significant way in which McCullen may advance the pro-life cause.
1. The counselors’ “outstretched hand.” The state law was challenged by Eleanor McCullen and other pro-life counselors who sought to engage women entering abortion clinics in quiet, personal conversation and offer them information and help concerning financial support, adoption, and other alternatives to abortion. Roberts’s opinion (joined by Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor) held that the law “burden[s] substantially more speech than necessary” to accomplish the state’s asserted goals of protecting public safety and preventing harassment or obstruction of women entering clinics. It noted that the state had plenty of more narrowly tailored means to prevent these harms; it also rejected the state’s argument that the plaintiffs could exercise speech from outside the buffer zone.
A decade ago I was fortunate enough to watch my US Senator accept the nomination of our party in our hometown. John Kerry reported for duty at the Boston Garden, and I enjoyed almost every minute of my first national convention.
I say almost every moment because it was at that convention when the party took a step backwards on abortion. The previous platform supported abortion, but added that “the Democratic Party is a party of inclusion. We respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue, and we welcome all our members to participate at every level of our party.”
That language was cut in 2004, and we all know how that election turned out. Kerry lost, the Republicans increased their majority in Congress, and we headed off towards the financial collapse and the Great Recession.
Today my party has a 30 vote deficit in the House, and it doesn’t look like we will be taking it back anytime soon. This is attributable to any number of reasons, not the least of which being gerrymandered districts, but imagine how many seats would be competitive again if we really opened up the Party to pro-life Democrats. How many seats could we win back if we invited, encouraged, and supported pro-life Democrats as they ran for office? Continue reading