The effect of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) on abortion has been the subject of much controversy, and pro-life members of Congress who voted for PPACA have received strong criticism as well as strong praise. This memorandum has three purposes. First, it provides a brief reminder that PPACA contains many provisions reflecting pro-life values and having pro-life effects. Second, it assesses the two major criticisms of PPACA concerning abortion raised by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Although the USCCB has been the most detailed and thoughtful critic of the statute on abortion-related matters, this memorandum concludes that there are convincing answers to the USCCB’s criticisms and thus it was eminently reasonable for pro-life legislators to support PPACA.
Finally, the memorandum concludes that it also makes perfect sense for a pro-life legislator to support further efforts to clarify restrictions on abortion funding and protections of religious conscience in the context of a stand-alone bill. Unlike the context of the PPACA vote, enactment of stand-alone clarifications will not destroy health-reform legislation and its many positive pro-life features and effects. But support for such further clarification should in no way be seized on as an admission that PPACA’s provisions against abortion funding were inadequate.
(From Tom Berg:) The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in Young v. United Parcel Service, the case involving accommodations for pregnant workers under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (the PDA). As I’ve mentioned in a prior post, Peggy Young had sought and been denied the same sort of light-duty accommodation that had been given to workers with similar work limitations from other causes, such as on-the-job injuries, disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and conditions or circumstances (medical problems, drunk-driving convictions) that led to a driver-employee’s loss of a Department of Transportation commercial truck-driving license. And as I’ve detailed, 23 pro-life organizations, including Democrats for Life, filed an amicus brief arguing that the PDA should be interpreted to require pregnancy accommodations when the employer made accommodations for other such categories of workers who were (in the words of the statute) “similar in their ability or inability to work.”
Many media outlets, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, remarked on the convergence in this case of pro-life groups and pro-choice feminist groups. It was indeed striking, at the press conference after the argument, to see Galen Carey of the National Association of Evangelicals followed by Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center, both expressing support for strong protections for pregnant women. Democrats for Life’s own Kristen Day was one of the two featured pro-life speakers (DFLA played a key role in bringing the pro-life brief to fruition). And Kristen nailed it:
As a pro-life advocate, I am proud to stand here to support Peggy Young. In our movement, we are often accused of caring only for the unborn child and ignoring the needs of the women. The fact that I am joined by 22 other pro-life groups is a testament to our commitment to the value of life and of raising children. Denying benefits and not providing reasonable accommodations for a pregnant woman is not pro-life.
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.
The Post reports that the brief of numerous pro-life organizations (in which Democrats for Life played a central role) may have helped put pressure on UPS to change:
Young’s supporters say the UPS policy change comes as Young’s case has drawn increasing support from all across the political spectrum, including conservative groups opposed to abortion, like Americans United for Life, business groups, women’s groups, workers’ rights advocates and the left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union.
“This has been a public relations nightmare for UPS,” said Tom Spiggle, an employment attorney and author of a book on pregnancy discrimination, “You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired!”
This will not moot the Young case, because UPS still says its earlier denial of accommodation to Peggy Young was legal, and it’s still defending against her claim for monetary damages.
(Cross-posted at Mirror of Justice)
Many readers of this blog likely know Millennial, a popular blog written and managed by young Catholics. I did an online interview for the blog on the current pregnancy discrimination case, Young v. UPS, and the amicus brief filed by 23 pro-life organizations including Dems for Life. I emphasize that the brief makes “a strong statement: pro-life groups believe that supporting pregnant women (including through effectively enforcing non-discrimination laws) is fundamentally pro-life.”
An interesting article in The Week on the subject of pregnancy discrimination, headlined as “The feminist issue that too many women ignore.” The articles makes reference to the briefs by both pro-life and pro-choice groups supporting Peggy Young, the plaintiff in the SCT in Young v. United Parcel Service. It quotes the pro-life brief and then adds (speaking presumably about potential legislative efforts down the line, beyond the SCT case):
While some feminists will surely resist working too closely with those who oppose abortion, others might view this as an opportunity to step outside their circles and increase the likelihood of making positive change. As writer and critic Judith Shulevitz puts it in her recent examination of the state of feminism today, getting legislation passed that will help working mothers will require “being willing to make compromises and unlikely alliances to get the necessary votes.” By “unlikely” she means those who “fall afoul of Emily’s List.”
(Cross-posted at Mirror of Justice)
Various places on the web–left, right, and center–are commenting on the Supreme Court brief filed by Democrats for Life and 22 other pro-life organizations supporting strong protection for pregnant women against discrimination.
ACTIVISTS on warring sides of the abortion debate rarely take the same position when it comes to Supreme Court cases involving women’s rights. But pro-choicers and pro-lifers have found common cause in Young v United Parcel Service, a pregnancy discrimination case the justices will take up on December 3rd.
[The narrow interpretation of the pregnancy-discrimination] law does not sit well with feminists or anti-abortion groups, who recognize the significance that economics play in decisions about abortion. Abortion foes are deeply concerned that pregnancy discrimination encourages abortion and forces women to endanger the health of their unborn children by continuing to work under conditions their doctors deem hazardous.
In the press call, Galen Carey, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals, called on “all involved to recognize the sacred gift of life and give special protection to women who nurture the life in their womb.”
The Baptist Press:
[Southern Baptist leader] President Russell D. Moore said in a statement for Baptist Press about the brief, “Being pro-life means standing both with unborn children and with their mothers. We must speak for pregnant women who should not have to decide between loving their babies, caring for their health and making a living.”
Bustle.com: pro-life and pro-choice groups in this case pursue “different paths to get to working rights for pregnant women, but a means to the same end.”
Statements from a couple of the organizations that supported the brief: Americans United for Life (co-counsel on the brief); All Our Lives (a progressive pro-life organization that joined as an amicus).
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
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 month or so before the Whole Life Democrat blog re-launched, longtime congressman Jim Oberstar of Minnesota, a stalwart among pro-life Democrats, died. There will be memorial services in Minnesota the week of June 23: details are here, a website where you can share memories is here. I’m reposting for our new blog my reflections on Oberstar and what he stood for.
— Tom Berg, Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of St. Thomas School of Law
Jim Oberstar, the longtime Minnesota congressman who died Saturday at age 79, represented several great strains in American public life that we need to recall and revitalize. Oberstar was a hero of mine before I came to Minnesota a dozen years ago, and it is one of my joys to hold a professorship named for him and supported by donors who rightly wanted to honor his service. Let me say a bit about the values he represented.