Discrimination no surprise

The Human Rights Commission conducted a survey of hundreds of women and found that 49% experienced some form of workplace discrimination related to their pregnancy or parenting roles, with 84% of those women experiencing significant distress and damage as a result.

Not least of all the woman who courageously shared that when she became pregnant her employer told her ‘well, your choice, the job or the baby’.   After undergoing an obviously coerced abortion, she lost her job within weeks.   

With so much choice rhetoric filling the air, perhaps this employer was just confused.  Can he/she really be blamed for telling this woman it was her ‘choice’, when abortion advocates are so busy telling women they NEED abortion so that they can get educations and careers and husbands.   If workplaces, educational institutions and communities were friendly and fair places for pregnant and parenting women, why would they need abortion?  

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick stated that what disturbed her most was ‘the inevitability of it’, as though women just accepted that they ‘have to put up with it’.   What surprises me is that this is such a shock.  We unveil stories like this every week, and have done for years. The workplace stories uncovered by this study are the tip of the iceberg.    

What about the women who watch what happens to their pregnant and parenting colleagues and make decisions to abort, to leave employment, to delay parenting, to not return to work based on what they witness?  What about the largest abortion consumers, 20-24yr olds, many of whom are very early in their careers, or still at university.   Pregnant and parenting university students are at enormous risk of coercion when faced with limited or no childcare, no flexible study options and provided with discount cards for abortion services. 

Women are indeed forced to choose between their unborn (and born) children, and fair and full participation in professional and educational spheres.  Whilst the recent report supports this, many women’s groups and political groups continue to tell women and their employers that women can’t possibly participate equally without access to abortion.   Is it any wonder people are confused?  

Whilst the establishment of a hotline for women suffering workplace discrimination is admirable, it fails to acknowledge or address the many other areas of women’s lives where they experience coercion away from motherhood.   When women are forced to choose between the lives of their children and full and equal participation in social, professional and educational worlds, this is not just discrimination, it is perpetration of a most misogynistic and anti-woman act. 

I wrote about abortion coercion here, highlighting the many ways in which abortion has become the default proposition for any woman who is considered young, is unmarried, still at university, trying to establish a career, or has an adverse foetal diagnosis.   I said then, ‘When threatened or actual withdrawal of financial, material and emotional support from a pregnant woman is seen as 'normal', and genuine offers of support are seen as ideological, where do women turn when their much wanted children begin to become a 'choice'?’ 

Ged Kearney, ACTU President says ‘Australia still has a significant way to go before there is equality between men and women.’  I agree.  While the general public continue to buy the lie that women need abortion to be equal, nobody should be surprised when they are told they have to choose. 

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