by Steven Ertelt
February 21, 2006
New York, NY (LifeNews.com) — Michelle McCusker was hired to teach pre-kindergartners at the St. Rose of Lima School in Queens. She loved her job and was hired on a teaching contract set to last for one year.
However, a month after school began, McCusker told school officials she was pregnant but would keep the baby rather than have an abortion. She was fired.
Two days after informing officials, school administrators fired her saying she was not properly representing the school’s Catholic views because she had sex outside of marriage.
McCusker said she was "devastated" by the news.
"Just knowing that I wouldn’t be able to see my kids and finish out the school year with them," McCusker said in an interview with ABC News. "It was my first teaching job so, and they took it away."
McCusker has filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the school, which is run by the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. But the school defends its decision.
"The school requires its teachers to convey the faith, to convey the gospel values and Christian traditions of the Catholic faith," Frank DeRosa, a spokesman for the Diocese of Brooklyn, told ABC News.
However, a pro-life group si coming to McCusker’s aid.
Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, says the firing sends the message to women and employees that they should have abortions if they become pregnant.
"When an employer fires a woman for carrying a child to term, they send an unintended message: An abortion will cover up the sex," she says.
"How would the employer feel if they later learned that their actions contributed to pressuring Ms. McCusker into having an abortion," she asked.
"The compassionate response to a woman who is carrying a child should be to ask if she needs help," Foster explained. She added that firing a pregnant woman is to "cause a crisis for her by taking her career, her income, and the obstetric/prenatal care that is critical to the health and well being of both mother and unborn child."
Foster points to a survey by the According to Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood’s research arm, showing that 73 percent of women who have abortions cite financial pressures.
Pregnancy discrimination cases at religious schools — especially pro-life ones — are a tricky issue.
A 2003 case in New York saw a pregnant, unmarried woman win who was demoted by a Catholic afterschool program where she was the director. The EEOC said the Catholic charity violated anti-discrimination laws.
According to ABC News, last week a federal judge in Alabama upheld the firing of an unwed woman who became pregnant while working at an evangelical Christian school. The school also claimed the teacher was fired because of the sex, not because she was pregnant.
"The constitution gives the school the right to make these kinds of decisions," said DeRosa.
"The church — or the school, part of the church — does not want to discriminate under any circumstance, but wants to have the freedom to function as an agency that teaches, in this case, the Catholic religion or the Christian tradition and the gospel of values that are associated with it," he told ABC News.
But McCusker told ABC News the most Christian thing she could do in her situation was to carry the pregnancy to term rather than compound the situation with an abortion.
"Here I’m being persecuted because I’m pro-life having my baby, and they fire me for it," McCusker said. "I hope that no other woman ever has to go through this. … It’s been very stressful."