Monday, January 2, 2012

Your unborn baby — or your job.

'Rep. Antonio and Others Stands Up for Womens’ Rights ' photo (c) 2011, ProgressOhio - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
The year is 2012 and women's reproductive choices are still up for debate.  There are two sides to every story but if the following if true, it is extremely disturbing.
Catherine Rizzo, 25, says there was no way to misinterpret her supervisor’s ultimatum at Cooky’s Deli in Bohemia in May.

“The owner’s daughter pulled me in the office, and basically told me if I didn’t have an abortion, I wasn’t going to have a job,” Rizzo told The Post in a tearful interview.

“It was very, very clear,” she said.

“I have two other kids I have to take care of, and I needed my job,” Rizzo added.

Cooky’s Deli owner Martin Marsilio, 69, vehemently denied the allegation, calling it “a total lie.”

The struggling single mom said she was barely getting by on the $400 to $500 a week she earned at the deli counter — and knew she couldn’t afford to lose her job.

“As a direct result of this serious threat, approximately one week later, [I] was forced to terminate [my] pregnancy,” Rizzo charged in a lawsuit filed on Dec. 19 in Brooklyn federal court. She seeks unspecified damages.

The unthinkable choice capped months of harassment, Rizzo said.

A co-worker regularly cursed at her, pushed her and told Rizzo she was “a lowlife and a bad mother,” the Sayville woman claimed in her lawsuit. (source Note: comments are disturbing)
I originally found this story at Clutch Magazine, where there was significant doubt expressed about the validity of Rizzo's claims.  We already know that women are discriminated against in the workplace, if they express any desire to have children, or simply based on fact that they are of reproductive age.  We also know that women with children are also penalized for not being able to dedicate the same time as other employees in the form of long hours.  Mothers are the ones most likely to take time off when a child is sick.  The truth of the matter is that women with children are continually penalized though we claim that children constitute a protected class. This can result in anything from firing, to denial of promotions as well as unequal pay with their male co-workers.

It is quite reasonable to assume that her employer simply informed her that if she took maternity leave with this present child, that she would not have a job waiting for her when she returned. One need not express a demand that an abortion occur to force an abortion to happen. Though this is an illegal demand to make of an employee, many employers will push right pass the law, if they believe that they can get away with it.


We base our lives around our income, and so while 400 dollars per week is certainly not a large salary, this was all that stood between Rizzo and homelessness, and the ability to feed her family.  If one is without high education, opportunities are limited.  It is further important that we recognize that single motherhood, in many cases, leads to little or no opportunities for advancement, as well as outright impoverishment.  There are many already working in jobs they despise, because they have no choice and therefore, why it is so hard to consider that a woman would feel pressured to have an abortion under these circumstances mystifies me.

Many of the comments on this story are fixated are the number of children that Rizzo has.  There has been rampant slut shaming, and classism as the following examples show:
Laugh
Ok so she wasn’t smart enough to keep her baby but she’s smart enough to get a lawyer? Hmmm, seems fishy.

Keith Henaghan 
this woman is a disgusting piece of selfish crap. This is a FREE country. She picked a job over a LIFE. Disgusting woman and now she is in the newspaper trying to do more exploiting for money.

The PURRRFESSOR
Now THIS Is Some Mental Health Bootstrapping.

She already HAS two kids she can barely afford,and she's planning a THIRD?

What is it that tells people it's OK to force. OTHER people to pay for YOUR KIDS?

What is it that says it's OK to PLAN YOUR CHILDREN. Around a WELFARE CHECK? Welfare is TEMPORARY, not a LIFESTYLE.

Derek Brown
Can't find the time to acquire the skills to get a better job but she can find the time--with two small children in the house--to lay down and spread her legs.
Now of course, one could reasonably argue that these are just anonymous comments on the internet however, it is this very anonymity that allows people to say their truth.  Granted, this truth is a hateful truth, but it is extremely reflective of society's attitude towards single mother's and women's sexuality. The truth of the matter is that not all children are welcome in this world.  Poor women who have children are often considered to be reckless whores, even though the western world has fallen behind replacement rates.  This is about controlling women's bodies and forcing conformity.

Employers break the law every damn day and get away with it, because employees either are not aware of their rights, or they have an inability to sue.  Demanding fair and equal treatment is enough to get one branded a trouble maker and lead to a swift dismissal.  The employer/employee relationship, is not one that is based on equality, but outright oppression regardless of the amount of salary paid. Another point worth mentioning is that we are currently in a recession for White people with education, and a downright depression for everyone else.  In this day of economic uncertainty, few can afford to risk the loss of a job. McDonald's may always be hiring, but McDonald's doesn't pay the grocery bill, never mind the rent.

There will always be women who choose an abortion because they don't want to parent, and we should support their right to make that decision; however, at the same time we need to recognize that there are women who because of poverty are forced to choose an abortion, when they would have preferred to have the child.  The ability to have an abortion is meaningless, if one can be actively coerced by outside forces.  The fight for the right to choose, also needs to concern itself with ensuring that a choice is actually available. If poverty is routinely a deciding a factor, then choice has not really occurred.

I am going to follow this story, because I am very interested to see how the court decides on this issue.  Given our history of targeting women who are pregnant with children that society does not value, I think much credence should be given to Rizzo's claims. It should have been Rizzo's choice, free of any kind of influence, as to whether or not to carry the child to term. Denying reproductive choice to even one woman is harmful.  It will be interesting to see what women's groups seek to investigate and support Rizzo's claims. As a poor women, I highly suspect that she is in this all on her own.