The groups even politely introduced each other – advocates from the National Women’s Law Center and the National Association of Evangelicals, Planned Parenthood, and the Christian Legal Society.
And their message was largely the same: women shouldn’t be pressured to choose between having a baby or keeping a job.
The groups have united around the case of Peggy Young, who sued UPS for pregnancy discrimination when the company refused to give her light duty work. UPS argues that its policies were non-discriminatory because they only provided light duty accommodations to workers injured on the job. But Young argues in her court filings that the company also gave light duty and other accommodations to workers who’d lost their drivers licenses or were convicted of drunk driving violations.
Anti-abortion groups seized on that particular point.
“The fact that UPS accommodates workers with DUIs who are risking people’s lives, and doesn’t accommodate people who are bringing new lives into the world is inconsistent,” said Kristen Day, with the group Democrats for Life.
She went on to say that groups like hers are often criticized for “caring for the unborn child and ignoring the needs of the women.” But their support of Young, she said, shows these groups care about both. “Denying benefits and not providing reasonable accommodations for a pregnant woman is not pro-life.”
Women’s and workers’ rights groups support Young because they want to make sure women are treated fairly in the workplace. And anti-abortion groups – more than 20 have filed friend of the court briefs in support of Young – want to make sure that workplace policies and practices don’t push pregnant women to terminate their pregnancies in order to keep their jobs.
At a raucous rally on the steps of the Supreme Court, the crowd included groups to the left and right of the political spectrum, from union workers to religious leaders. They held “Stand With Peggy” placards, wore bright pink “Respect the Bump” T-shirts and chanted “Hey Hey, Ho Ho Mad Men era policies got to go!”
The chant referred to President Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this year when he said: “It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode.”
“Mad Men” is set in the 1960s, when a majority of children were raised in breadwinner-homemaker families. Today, about one in five are, while the majority of children grow up in dual-income or single working parent families.
At the rally Wednesday, story after story poured out of women who’d been denied water bottles or transferred to work in the toothbrush aisle rather than lift heavy boxes during their pregnancies.
Some pregnant workers denied accommodations lost their jobs. Some were forced to take leave, most of it unpaid. Some had miscarriages. And some were either asked to terminate their pregnancies, considered it, or did.
Joan Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law, which runs a hotline for workers who face caregiver discrimination, reported in 2012 testimony before the EEOC that a number of women have been given a choice between getting and abortion or losing their jobs. Some employers have even offered to pay for the procedure and drive workers to clinics.
For example, Abigail Shomo was working as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant in Virginia when she became pregnant. She said her boss gave her an ultimatum to either have an abortion or be fired, saying, that customers preferred slim waitresses and wouldn’t want to see one with “a belly.” She kept her baby, lost her job and sued her employer. The case was settled.
“No woman should be told to go home and come back when she’s no longer pregnant,” said Galen Carey, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals, referring to what Young said she was told at UPS. “That’s a pretty strong statement.”
Carey, Day and other anti-abortion advocates stood outside the Supreme Court with Rachel Laser, deputy director of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Laser supports abortion rights. But she works in concert with anti-abortion groups on pregnancy discrimination. “And we’re going to continue working together,” she said.
“This is how our system is supposed to work: working together on issues we agree on,” agreed Carey. “We’re not supposed to stay in separate boxes and not talk to each other.”