In 1971, Elizabeth Warren was fired for being pregnant; sadly, such discrimination persists

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Opinion

October 14, 2019 - 10:22 AM

Democratic presidential hopeful Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren waves as she arrives for a town hall in Los Angeles on Thursday.

A core biographical element of Elizabeth Warren’s stump speech — that in the 1970s she lost a job as a public school teacher when her pregnancy became apparent — came in for scrutiny this week after a conservative website, the Washington Free Beacon, went hunting through 1971 New Jersey school board records.

Never mind that the records don’t contradict Warren’s story, or that it took place years before the national Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, or that other teachers at her school told CBS that there was a “rule” that pregnant teachers had to leave once they started to show. The doubts raised about this story create a cloud of dishonesty around Warren, just as the Ukraine affair stirs up a murk of corruption around Joe Biden. That’s the way politics works in 2019: Mud doesn’t have to be real to stick to you.

But the mudslinging at Warren’s early-career story of pregnancy discrimination is particularly pernicious, because it besmirches not only her, but also all working women. More than 80% of women become mothers, and most have jobs when they find out they’re pregnant. Nonmothers may be seen by employers as “potential mothers” — hence the how-are-we-still-discussing-this advice that a woman should remove her wedding ring before a job interview.

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