There have been several news stories this week about a decision by a New York federal district court judge in EEOC v. Bloomberg. The case involved claims by the EEOC on behalf of 78 women that Bloomberg LP (the international news organization) engaged in illegal sex and pregnancy discrimination. In ruling in favor of the company, the court noted that Bloomberg paid well and in return expected employees to treat their work as “their first obligation.” “[T]here are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences” noted the judge.
Commentators have characterized the opinion as “tough luck for working moms” and “a throwback that reinforced outdated attitudes toward women and corporate culture.” Defenders of the opinion have called it “common sense” and “realistic.”
This case raises an interesting and difficult question for many of us in the prolife movement. Should society accomodate the unequal impact of childbearing on men and women, and if so how? Some see this as a non-issue in a chaste society in which every child is conceived within marriage, but even in such a society, some women will need (and others choose) to remain in the work force to contribute to the economic support of their families. The organization, Feminists for Life, has one set of responses, but other prolife organizations respond differently.
Clearly this question lies at the heart of Justices O’Connor’s comment in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that “[t]he ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” It also is the foundation of Justice Ginsburg’s belief that the true constitutional foundation for the right to abortion lies in equal protection.
If we are to persuade both the courts and a larger majority of our fellow citizens that abortion can and should be illegal except in a small set of circumstances, we must have some coherent and attractive answer to the claim that abortion is necessary to ensure women’s equality and protect their ability to participate in public life. Otherwise I fear many will continue to believe that abortion is evil, but must be tolerated as a necessary evil.