I am reminded how easy it is to forget. I am reminded how we have not all had the same experience. I am reminded that we are not all from the same generation. Whenever I read posts on social media or the newspaper. Whenever I am in public. Whenever I listen to someone’s opinion.
I realize we all have our opinions on birth control. Differing views of religion, morality or need determine one’s choices. What may seem reasonable to me may not seem so to someone else. But in reality, we all must make our own choices and live with the consequences. There is something, however, that I’m not seeing discussed anywhere, and I wish to bring that to your attention.
Employers are beginning to be vocal about stating their opinions of morality on the issue of birth control. When I worked for religious organizations, I understood and accepted the fact that some things would be dictated to me regarding dress, pay and expectations of my speech and actions while on the job. Indeed, sometimes even while I was off the job, but in public. Every moment, after all, was a moment I was representing the organization or Christ Himself. A big order, but one that I strove to respect.
But it is not these employers that I address. It is the secular employer whose owners are holding their beliefs in a way that imposes those beliefs on others. Those that provide health care that does not include birth control, because that does not fit in with the owners set of values. Many people aren’t concerned about this, but I wish for you to think about this for a minute. The following is an example from my own experience in the past.
I began working straight out of high school, office work for minimum wage. I had no health insurance when I began working. This was 1970, and I was making $55 a week. At that time I was still living with my parents, so I paid them a small amount for room and board, and I was able to make ends meet if I used the bus for transportation. One of the questions they asked me when I applied was if I was married, engaged, or dating. Why would they ask this? It was a polite way to ask me if I was sexually active. They explained that they wanted to know if I ran a high risk of getting pregnant soon-they didn’t want to train me if they were going to have to let me go to have a baby. Yes. “Let me go.” The job wouldn’t wait for my return, unless I was willing to come back to work the next day. No maternity leave. They would have been more assured, I think, if I would have agreed to have the baby in the restroom during break, then return to work and place the newborn in the drawer until lunchtime.
When that office closed, I took a job (still minimum wage) at an insurance agency. Once again, I was asked the same question. This time I was engaged, and my prospective boss was relieved to be told I wasn’t planning a pregnancy anytime soon. Again, he told me that he didn’t want to hire someone who he would have to replace right away, due to childbirth.
My point is that do we really think that these employers are so enamored with the babies born during our employment with them that they will hire, hold jobs open, pay for maternity leave, provide adequate wages and provide good health care for these children once they are conceived? Didn’t seem that way in the seventies to me. They made it their business to know that I would be worthy of their training. And that meant promising no time off for pregnancy or delivery. After all, there were plenty of other young girls waiting in the employment line.
Do we know what these moral minded employers would do in these circumstances? Will they hold themselves morally responsible to hire women who are obviously pregnant or have no birth control to assure they won’t get pregnant for a few years? In a five-year space of time, how many pregnancies could an employer cover? And how many children could someone holding down a minimum wage job afford without relying on public assistance? One of my friends in grade school came from a family of twelve children. Twelve. Is our society ready to deal with another Baby Boomer generation? Do we really wish to return to a time of limited birth control? But then perhaps it will only be the poor who will be contributing to our increasing numbers.
Let us not step backward forty-five years and allow them to ask these same questions as a hiring stratagem. Let us not lose things we struggled to achieve.
This isn’t just a case of right or wrong. We must not fall into the trap of thinking that since this is a moral decision that they are looking out for our good. When it comes to morals, I want to make my own decisions.