When a number of prominent anti-abortion rights groups submitted an amicus brief defending the rights of pregnant workers in Young v. UPS, a case that was argued before the Supreme Court this week, we were not surprised that Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum was not among them. After all, Schlafly has built a long career out of arguing against protections for women in their careers.
In fact, it turns out, Schlafly submitted her very own amicus brief [pdf] in the case defending UPS’s right to suspend employees who become pregnant. And even thought the brief is written by Schlafly’s attorney Larry Joseph, it is full of classic Schlafly wisdom about how pregnant women most certainly cannot “have it all.”
In the brief, Eagle Forum argues that the plaintiff, Peggy Young, was seeking “preferential treatment” by not being suspended from her job for getting pregnant. In fact, the brief goes on to argue, in enacting the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the interpretation of which is at issue in Young, “Congress never intended…to eliminate stereotypes of husband-breadwinner, wife-homemaker families” or “to have pregnant women work as package-delivering truck drivers” although the “eradication of typical – or even stereotypical – families was the goal of the feminist movement.”
In enacting PDA, Congress never intended: (1) to eliminate stereotypes of husband-breadwinner, wife-homemaker families; (2) to have women return to work immediately after giving birth to the exclusion of caring for their newborns; (3) to have pregnant women work as package-delivering truck drivers; or (4) to privilege the status of female truck drivers over either male truck drivers or the women married to male truck drivers. While the eradication of typical – or even stereotypical – families was the goal of the feminist movement, Congress generally has taken the more moderate path advocated by UPS here. By contrast, Young demands that UPS provide her with light duty for nine months when typical on the-job light duty lasts a month, so that she continues to draw her high pay while forcing her predominantly male coworkers – who support their own spouses and children – to do the heavy lifting. It insults pregnancy to characterize this situation as pregnancy discrimination.
The brief goes on to argue that Young and her allies want to “impose their pregnancies on coworkers,” thus “[f]acilitating single motherhood out of a strained sense of equality”:
At all times relevant to this action, Young herself was married to a man whose job provided medical insurance. Nonetheless, much of the advocacy and data submitted to this Court press the concerns of single women who work and want to have children. If PDA did allow women like Young and similarly situated single women to impose their pregnancies on coworkers, PDA might provide enough of a cushion for Young, but it would leave similarly situated single women short, once their children were born. Facilitating single motherhood out of strained sense of equality does not do the women or the children a significant or long-lasting favor[.]
Finally, Eagle Forum argues that for “both married women like Young and especially for single mothers” there is no right to work while pregnant. “Life is a series of tradeoffs,” it concludes, “and ‘you can have it all’ does not mean ‘having it all given to you.’”
Third, although Young herself was married when the underlying facts unfolded, the position pressed by Young and her amici also extends to single working mothers. For both married women like Young and especially for single mothers, neither this Court nor this Nation have ever recognized a “fundamental right to bear children while also participating fully and equally in the workforce.” Senator Williams – as quoted in Guerra – should not be construed to mean that women can “have it all” through some “fundamental right” to avoid the inevitable tradeoffs between work and family life. Life is a series of tradeoffs, and “you can have it all” does not mean “having it all given to you.”
[Citations removed for clarity]