After handing down high-profile decisions in the Hobby Lobby and abortion clinic buffer zone cases earlier this year, the Supreme Court is once again turning its attention to reproductive rights. On Wednesday, the justices will hear arguments in a case that has the potential to redefine the scope of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, as a former UPS employee named Peggy Young alleges that the company wouldn’t accommodate her needs while she was pregnant.
But, unlike the earlier cases in this area, there’s something unique about Young v. UPS: It has the ability to unite groups on both sides of the reproductive rights debate.
Both pro-choice and pro-life organizations are hoping that Young wins her case. Twenty three groups that are opposed to abortion — including Americans United for Life, the group responsible for spearheading dozens of anti-abortion laws across the country — submitted an amicus brief defending Young’s right to better work accommodations. Meanwhile, progressive groups like the Black Women’s Health Imperative, the Women’s Law Project, and the American Civil Liberties Union have submitted their own briefs urging the Supreme Court to prevent discrimination against workers based on their gender and their family decisions.
That’s because making the workplace a friendlier place for pregnant women is an important goal for people on each end of the abortion rights spectrum — but for slightly different reasons.
Pro-life groups are invested in women being able to carry their pregnancies to term. As David Frum recently outlined in the Atlantic, social conservatives have even begun to embrace single parenthood because they don’t want unmarried women to choose abortion. By the same logic, they don’t want workers like Peggy Young to end a pregnancy because that’s the only way they can keep their jobs.
“Economic pressure is a significant factor in many women’s decision to choose abortion over childbirth,” the groups write in their amicus brief. “Protecting the ability to work can increase true freedom for women, promote the common good, and protect the most vulnerable among us.”
While pro-choice groups likely wouldn’t characterize fetuses as “the most vulnerable among us,” they are equally invested in ensuring that women are supported in the workplace when they decide to start a family. Organizing under the hashtag #StandWithPeggy, women’s health organizations are arguing that this is a gender justice issue because female employees shouldn’t be treated as second-class citizens. These groups are particularly concerned for the low-wage workers in male-dominated sectors who stand to suffer the most if the Supreme Court rules against Young.
Although far-right abortion opponents often construe the pro-choice movement as one that is incompatible with pregnancy and children, it’s a misconception that reproductive rights begin and end at abortion. Women’s health proponents are beginning to embrace a much broader agenda — one that has been furthered by women of color’s “reproductive justice” framework — that includes policies to support people at every stage of their reproductive lives.
If they want to continue working together, there are other work-life policies that pro-choice and pro-life groups could focus on next. In order to make it easier for families to choose to raise children, the U.S. could reduce the gender wage gap, guarantee paid parental leave and expand affordable childcare options — areas of workplace equality in which this country continues to lag behind.