Federal Appeals Court Rules Woman Can’t be Fired for Having Abortion
by Steven Ertelt
June 3, 2008
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A federal appeals court has ruled that the same employment discrimination law that protects women who are pregnant from being fired also protects women who have abortions. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in what may be one of the first cases of abortion discrimination.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court revived the lawsuit a woman referred to as Jane Doe filed against CARS Protection Plus claiming she was fired after having an abortion.
Doe said she reluctantly had an abortion when doctors informed her that her baby had physical disabilities incompatible with life after birth.
A lower court had previously dismissed the lawsuit, saying Doe offered no substantive proof showing she was fired directly because of the abortion.
U.S. District Judge Maurice B. Cohill Jr. ruled for the company and said Doe was unable to show the company engaged in discrimination, according to a legal Intelligencer report.
The case revolves partly around comments Doe’s employers made and whether Doe properly notified the company about sick leave and vacation time she used for time off from work at the time of her abortion and afterwards.
However, the appeals court also focused on the question of whether a woman’s abortion is protected under Title VII, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
The Intelligencer reports that Senior 3rd Circuit Judge Richard L. Nygaard wrote in his opinion that the appeals court addressed the question in a similar case involving a Catholic teacher who was fired after signing a newspaper ad promoting abortion.
As LifeNews.com previously reported, Ursuline Academy, a private Catholic school in Wilmington, fired Michele Curay-Cramer after she lent her name to a pro-abortion signature ad. She filed a lawsuit saying the school violated her First Amendment free speech rights.
Although the appeals court rejected Curay-Cramer’s claim that Title VII’s "opposition clause" protects employees who have abortions or support them, it cited with approval a fellow appeals court’s decision that abortion is protected under the law.
Judge Nygaard also noted that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken the position that it is unlawful to fire a woman for having an abortion saying the Pregnancy Discrimination Act covers "pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions," and that abortion qualifies as a "related medical condition."
As a result, Nygaard found that "the plain language of the statute, together with the legislative history and the EEOC guidelines, support a conclusion that an employer may not discriminate against a woman employee because she has exercised her right to have an abortion.