Where Are All the Feminists When You Need Them?

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This week The Washington Post reported that during her coaching career at the University of California at Berkeley, Marianne Stanley forced an assistant coach to choose between having an abortion and quitting her job.

The assistant, Sharrona Alexander, was actually on her way to Atlanta to have the abortion, (allegedly paid for by Stanley) when she changed her mind and decided that she didn’t want to terminate her pregnancy, nor did she want to step down from her coaching job. Her decision did not suit Stanley, now the head coach of the Washington Mystics, who asked Alexander to resign. Alexander refused, was subsequently fired and later brought a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against the university, which reportedly settled for $115,000.

Lest we think this is an isolated incident, it was only a month ago that the D.C. inspector general recommended “appropriate disciplinary action” against an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) supervisor, whose advice led three rookie emergency medical technicians to have abortions, for fear of losing their jobs.

According to the D.C. inspector general’s investigation, the majority of a March 2001 EMS orientation class recalled operations chief Samanthia M. Robinson saying they were on a year’s probation, had no union representation and could be fired if they became pregnant. Robinson denied telling class members that pregnancy would result in termination, but three students came forward independently, to tell that they had chosen abortions, based on Robinson’s remarks.

And so, the unequivocal question: When these women were forced to make this horrific choice, when they were told they could not simultaneously hold onto their careers and assume the role of motherhood, where were the feminists?

That any boss would pressure an employee to abort her child, simply to keep her job, is preposterous. Federal and state laws clearly prohibit pregnancy discrimination. Notwithstanding, 4,287 pregnancy discrimination charges were filed just last year with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

But the most appalling fact in both of these cases is that the bosses were women.

Why would a female boss pressure an employee to have an abortion, lest she lose her job? Were these women ever slacking in their job performance? Or did their employers make an assumption that pregnant women are weak, professionally incompetent and incapable of carrying out their job responsibilities?

If the boss in either of these cases had been a male, feminist groups would have fallen all over themselves to lambaste the chauvinist and drag his name through the media mud. But when the boss is a female, who is to come to the aid of pregnant employees?

Where was Planned Parenthood? Where were the throngs of women who, three decades ago, fought a contentious court battle for reproductive rights, all in the name of “choice?”

Wasn’t it their beloved Margaret Sanger who wrote in Woman and the New Race:

“Women who have a knowledge of contraceptives are not compelled to make the choice between a maternal experience and a marred love life; they are not forced to balance motherhood against social and spiritual activities. Motherhood is for them to choose, as it should be for every woman to choose.”

Ah, but this assistant head coach and these EMS students didn’t get to choose. Rather, their choice was made for them.

Wasn’t it also the mother of Planned Parenthood who wrote:

“No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.”

And didn’t Sanger also write:

“Woman must have her freedom – the fundamental freedom of choosing whether or not she shall be a mother and how many children she will have. Regardless of what man’s attitude may be, that problem is hers – and before it can be his, it is hers alone.”

But the problem wasn’t “man’s attitude,” rather it was woman’s.

It isn’t likely that feminist groups have never heard of Marianne Stanley. It was Stanley who sued the University of Southern California for sexual discrimination in 1993, demanding compensation parity for men’s and women’s head coaches. Stanley lost the lawsuit on the grounds that her coaching and marketing experience did not equal that of her male counterpart. But by the time that verdict was handed down, her name had passed through feminist circles across the country.

So what do the feminist groups think about these cases? Do they think there is any reason to rally around Alexander and these three EMS students in their quest to be working mothers? Or do the pro-choice activists secretly denounce these women for not being willing to give up motherhood in order to further their careers in sports and medicine? Do they furtively think these young mothers just weren’t willing to pay the price to remain on level playing ground with the men and such is their loss, they should have known better?

If the latter is true, then it’s starkly obvious. It never really was about the right to choose.

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