Jewish World Review March 14, 2002/ Rosh Chodesh Nisan, 5762

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports

The costs of women's feeble choices | The cover of Us magazine had photos of pregnant and unwed Elizabeth Hurley bemoaning abandonment by the child's father, a cad, whose cruel parting shot was a demand for DNA tests. The cover title: "Smart Women, Dumb Choices."

Women, despite Oprah's reading club and occupying over one-half of the seats in U.S. law schools and medical schools, remain the intellectual lightweight gender. Thirty years of statutory equality have yielded a huddled, helpless mass of whiny humanity, victims of their own demands.

A recent smattering of suits establishes this sociological fact. The litigation stems from a 1991 U.S. Supreme Court decision, International Union v. Johnson Controls, Inc. In the case, employees of Johnson Controls filed EEOC complaints about their company's policy on employee lead exposure. Lead exposure leads to birth defects, even preconception. The company initially used a disclosure policy, hoping female employees would choose to work elsewhere and, if not, would sign a waiver indicating they understood the risks of miscarriage and birth defects in lead exposure.

However, the women were so indifferent to the future fruits of their loins that they simply signed the waivers to get the hourly rate hike of these lead-laden jobs. Johnson Controls, in a showing of corporate conscience not recognized by anyone amidst the equal rights mumbo jumbo, felt the risk was too high, and that it owed children a duty, even if their parents were callous. So, Johnson Controls implemented a mandatory policy: no women of childbearing age could work in high-lead exposure areas without proof of sterilization.

The EEOC flew twice backwards around its cage and challenged the policy. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the policy as discriminatory. In concurring, Justice Scalia noted the employer's potential liability for harm to the unborn children of women who could now demand work in high-risk areas. However, a unanimous court applied the protections of Title VII, "Concern for a woman's existing or potential offspring historically has been the excuse for denying women equal employment opportunities." Statutory equality gave women the right to make really dumb decisions for their children.

Fast forward 11 years to the cover story of USA Today two weeks ago with this headline, "Workers take employers to court over birth defects: Workplace hazards worry employees, their children."

The story is about women who work around solvents, chemicals, lead and all manner of industrial bubblings. They are giving birth to children with pointed ears, cancer, stomachs where lungs should be and other birth defects too painful to list.

Employers who were left with no choice, thanks to equal opportunity, must now pay the tab for the chronically ill children of women they tried to warn. Workers' compensation statutes do not preclude birth defects suits. I have taught this case since 1991 and warned students that the decision left employers with a Hobson's choice.

The safety problem is not limited to line workers. The stress of trading desks, long hours, and lack of breaks for pregnant women in high-demand professions result in high blood pressure during pregnancy and lower birth weights for babies.

Even if society curbed all of its alleged social constructs and men began using placemats and going to Mervyn's sales, no one could change the biological fact that only women can bear children. But the honor of procreation is reduced to a speed bump in a more important career or wage ladder fast lane. Is it too much to ask that ambition take a break for 9 months of safety for a developing child?

Enough already with the equality. We get it. We understand that women are capable of donning overalls and speaking as longshoremen alongside the guys on the Ford chassis line. In fact, Rosie the Riveter showed us such two generations ago, without the foul language. The issue is not equality, but rather whether a child's welfare trumps gender statements on hourly wages and career advancement.

Women demanded equality and have the legal right to choose. There are moral obligations and consequences for children in their choices. Recently released studies have shown children in day care get sick more often. A study one year ago concluded that children shuffled into daycare were more aggressive in their public school years. Just because Liz Hurley can support a child without a father does not mean that she should or that a fatherless home with super model mom is best for her child

Women have equal opportunities, but unique obligations. Studies and litigation make it clear that there are tradeoffs. The consequences of women's choices are stunning in their ripple and multi-generational effects. Dumb choices. Dumb women.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


03/08/02: Botoxic faces
02/28/02: The dangers of organized philanthropy
02/25/02: Don't take the gold
02/14/02: Ease up on the brothers and sisters
02/11/02: Because I was courted
02/05/02: Fat fault
01/24/02: Tolerance does not mean stupidity
01/17/02: Too old too soon
01/10/02: Ethically challenged firms
01/03/02: The year that was
12/27/01: The Twelve Days of inconsistency
12/20/01: Free Speech and the political spectrum
12/13/01: Curbing brats
12/06/01: Power to influence
11/29/01: The disappearing art of grading
11/21/01: The Big Two-Five
11/13/01: You can never find a lib when you need one
11/01/01: Unlucky in sports
10/26/01: An epidemic of counselitis
10/16/01: A touch of class
10/12/01: Of human nature and monsters
10/05/01: Sensitive man
10/01/01: Post-September 11 security
09/20/01: No tinhorn terrorists can frighten us
09/06/01: If there is no honor in youth sports, it is because of the adults
08/27/01: The draw of Condit
08/23/01: Lowering expectations and flying high
08/17/01: Thoreau, Walden and stems cells
08/13/01: Our masters: The animals
07/30/01: When principle hits too close to home
07/13/01: Rage born of sublimation
07/06/01: Patient's rights and the Valley of Death
06/29/01: There is no excuse
06/21/01: I want an eternal soulmate, but the marriage thing is another issue
06/14/01: Which way maverick McCain? An Arizonan's perspective
06/07/01: No stroke of genius
05/30/01: The lesson of the Mr. Green Jeans senator: 'Moderate' is a classy term for wishy-washy
05/25/01: Baseball has not been so good to me
05/18/01: Clothes make the woman
05/11/01: Selective precaution
05/04/01: Grades: Equality of students, by students, for the students
04/27/01: The Horowitz revelations as seen by a college professor
04/20/01: First, let's kill all the tests
04/13/01: The continuing mistake of underpricing electricity
04/06/01: That pill, Julia Roberts
03/29/01: If it weren't for the parents, we might accomplish something
03/23/01: The melt down of the academy
03/15/01: Columbine redux: Moral infants
03/09/01: The lessons of Tom and Nicole
03/01/01: Pardon the temporary outrage
02/23/01: In defense of homework
02/20/01: A Message for faith-based organizations: Don't take the money, just run
02/06/01: Enough already with the Clintoons
01/26/01: The challenge to be better than we have been
01/19/01: Where have you gone Frieda Pushnik?
12/29/00: The year that was
12/23/00: Litigation: It's the American way
12/15/00: In defense of rhetoric
12/06/00: The company we keep: Lawyers and elections
12/01/00: Liberals' art of trashing of women
11/20/00: Put me out of my misery
11/17/00: On being a statesman
11/13/00: When it's broke, fixing it wouldn't offend the Framers
11/08/00: ELECTION 2000: I SURRENDER
10/27/00: Al in the package? Memo to women: Choosing presidents and husbands
10/20/00: Ten things the gay community should understand
10/13/00: "You Have a Lump."
10/06/00: The government as the pharmacy: Don't
09/29/00: The capacity for truth
09/22/00: Charity with strings and an agenda
09/15/00: The taming of the shrew: Gloria Steinem takes a husband
09/09/00: Why rich folk don't bother me none
08/28/00: Survival of the not-so-fit but conniving
08/25/00: Conventions: A study in contrasts
08/18/00: Resenting the accusations of racial prejudice
08/04/00: Women: Their own worst enemy
07/21/00: Hillary: Our longshoreman First Lady
07/21/00: SUVs: The root of all evil
07/14/00: The basketball gene and white men not jumping so well
07/07/00: I wanna be around
06/23/00: The liberal conversion
06/14/00: Sex and the City: The shallow but vulgar female
06/08/00: No excuses schools
06/02/00: Oh, Canada: Our Nutty Neighbors to the North
05/23/00: The new mollycoddling coach
05/16/00: On adultery and leadership
05/12/00: Taking your lumps
05/02/00: Elian: There's never a liberal around when you need one
04/25/00: Life's circle and tenderness
04/18/00: Womyn who want it both ways
04/11/00: The monsters we're raising with the ergo proposition
04/05/00: Endowing the Hooters Chair for Literature Appreciation
03/28/00: Dr. Laura: The passive/aggressive kid's mom
03/21/00: Dough and campaigns
03/14/00: The volunteerism of conscription and pomp
03/07/00: Hope and pray that religion remains a force in politics
02/29/00: Ditzes in TV Land
02/22/00: Cranky nitpickers make writing a [sic] experience
02/15/00: Those chameleon 60s activists
02/08/00: McCandidate McCain: Flirting with principles
02/01/00: The demise of marriage
01/25/00: Stroke of the pen, law of the land: Clinton's Camelot
01/18/00: Off the Rocker Rorschach Test
01/11/00: Oprah's lemmings
01/04/00: Struggling mightily amidst the comfort
12/23/99: Confused fathers
12/14/99: Drop-kicking the homeless
12/07/99: Turtles and teamsters, side-by-side in Seattle
11/29/99: When conservatives behave badly
11/22/99: Compassionate conservative: Timing and targets
11/18/99: The elusive human spirit and accountability
11/11/99: Succumbing to the intellectual child within with the help of crackpots and screwballs
10/28/99: Live by litigation, die by litigation
10/22/99: Jesse, Warren, Cybill, Donald and Oprah
10/14/99: Inequality and injustice: It's the big one
10/05/99: Dan Quayle, morals and schoolyard bullies
09/30/99: The monsters of epidermal parenting
09/21/99: The Diversity Hoax
09/15/99: Waco Wackos
09/09/99: Selective censorship
09/01/99: The village, the children, judicial imperialism and abortion
08/24/99: Naughty Newt?
08/17/99: In defense of Boy Scouts and judgment
08/10/99: Ruining the finest health care system in the world
08/03/99: Nihilism and politics: ethics on the lam
07/26/99: Of women, soccer and removed jerseys
07/23/99: Not in despair, a mere mortal doing just fine
07/20/99: "Why me?" How about "Why us?"
07/13/99: Bunk, junk & juries
07/06/99: An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store
06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2002, Marianne M. Jennings