for Life Opposes Pregnancy Discrimination
The New York Civil Liberties Union charged a private Catholic school in November with discriminating against an unmarried Catholic school teacher by firing her because she became pregnant. Feminists for Life supports the NYCLU in protecting women from pregnancy discrimination because it pits a woman against her own child by forcing her to choose between her career and her pregnancy, and because it effectively discriminates against female employees by providing a different standard as compared to similarly situated male employees.
According to court documents, Michelle McCusker was hired to teach pre-kindergartners at the St. Rose of Lima School in Rockaway Beach on September 7, 2005. Her teaching contract was to last for one year, but a month after school began, McCusker informed the school's principal that she was pregnant and planned to have the child. Two days later, the principal told McCusker that she was being terminated because she violated the school's religious principles by becoming pregnant while unmarried, even though she conceived before she was hired. The school principal said she could work only until the end of October. McCusker said she is "devastated by this."
"When an employer fires a woman for carrying a child to term, they send an unintended message: An abortion will cover up the sex," said Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life. "The compassionate response to a woman who is carrying a child should be to ask if she needs help, rather than cause a crisis for her by taking her career, her income, and the obstetric/prenatal care that is critical to the health and well being of both mother and unborn child. Women deserve better."
Feminists for Life believes that no employer should put a woman in a situation where she has to choose between sacrificing her education or career plans and sacrificing her children.
Foster asked, "How would the employer feel if they later learned that their actions contributed to pressuring Ms. McCusker into having an abortion?" According to Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood's research arm, a lack of practical resources and emotional support are the primary overarching reasons that drive women to abortion. "Would they have fired her if they learned she miscarried under the stress, or if she had never become pregnant but her sexual activity was revealed? What if it was an unmarried man who fathered a child or a married father who had an affair that resulted in pregnancy? It is hard to imagine a situation where a man would have been treated the same for equivalent behavior," Foster added.
Other Catholic institutions, like Georgetown University, have worked over the course of many years to better accommodate pregnant and parenting women. Feminists for Life's first Pregnancy Resource Forum was hosted at Georgetown in 1997 and moderated by Foster. "We took an inventory of services and decided what was most needed. Within two years Georgetown trustees set aside nearby housing for parents, started Hoya Kids childcare, established a pregnancy hotline, and cross-trained counselors to address pregnancy resources as well as sexual assault and domestic violence." Since the first forum, the school has made significant progress toward meeting the needs of pregnant and parenting students on the Georgetown campus, and every year Georgetown hosts another Pregnancy Resource Forum to see what improvements should be made next.
Feminists for Life's Pregnancy Resource Forums were the inspiration for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Services Act of 2005.
UPDATE: In a recent interview with ABC World News Tonight, Foster said, “This is not about bashing any religion, this is the act of a single employer.” When asked about McCusker’s contract, Foster responded, “Her most important contract was to take care of herself and her child.”
for Life carries on the tradition of the early American Feminists including
Susan B. Anthony
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