No woman should have to get an abortion to keep her job

Mary Szoch is Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Washington Examiner on October 28, 2021.

At a community meeting last week, D.C. Assistant Police Chief Chanel Dickerson revealed that as a pregnant 18-year-old police cadet in the late 1980s, she was told to have an abortion or face termination from the program. The next day, another police officer, 24-year veteran Karen Arikpo, disclosed that she, too, had an abortion to save her job. 

Arikpo and Dickerson were part of the same recruit class in 1997, and the female sergeant who explained the “consequences” of getting pregnant is no longer with the department. But how many more women could still come forward lamenting being pitted against their children? How many more women can recount being pressured, coerced, and manipulated into ending their unborn child’s life because their career depended on it?

On June 23, 1972, Title IX was enacted, outlawing discrimination based on sex in education programs. The massive influx of women into universities and, shortly thereafter, the workforce in the second half of the 20th century should have been an opportunity to create a new workplace culture that celebrated the differences between men and women and the gifts both have to offer. However, the reenvisioning of the work environment to make space for motherhood never took place.

Just seven months after Title IX became law, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade. Instead of empowering working women, the legalization of abortion actually further entrenched the workplace as a man’s world. Instead of making space for working women to be mothers, employers simply added women and stirred, with many relying on the Roe decision to “fix” the major problem with this approach. If you think compelled abortion to continue a career is a relic of a bygone era, consider how many contemporary women credit abortion access as a major contributor to their career success.

If working women think they need to have abortions in order to keep the careers they’ve worked so hard for, then it’s a damning indictment of the workplace. The women, children, and men of America deserve and should demand better.

Our society and workplaces will not be equal for men and women until we recognize that men and women are fundamentally different. Women have the ability to nurture and sustain life within them, and men do not. Little girls growing up in America should hear, “Women can do anything,” not, “Women can do anything … as long as they don’t have children.”

If a man were told to kill his child in order to keep his career, the world would react in horror, and rightly so. So, why, then, do we accept women being told to do the same?

Title IX cannot have been passed in order to create an America where a woman who wanted to have a successful career as a police officer would be forced to kill her child in order to do so. That is not equality — that is abuse.

America needs to reshape our culture into one that celebrates and supports motherhood, one that recognizes the incredibly hard work it takes to be a good mother while simultaneously recognizing that women who are mothers have gifts to offer in the workplace. Children are not the enemy of success — they are its companion.

Women do not need abortion “rights.” Mothers need maternity leave and flexible work schedules. They need support from their child’s father, as well as their families, friends, employers, and colleagues, including those who are male. They need society to realize that if given the opportunity, mothers will make great contributions because they are working to create a better future for their children.

Dickerson shared that she never had other children. She said, “My choice to have a baby was personal, and it should’ve been mine alone and not for an employer ultimatum.” Arikpo said, “It’s so unfair. ... And now, I’ve never been able to have a kid. All these years, I’ve tried, and I’ve never been able to have a baby. ... I did this for a job.” Arikpo said if she could go back, she would have quit her job and had the baby.

Too many women have walked this path. Too many babies have lost their lives because of it. For all the girls in our country, both in and outside the womb, who will one day want to have a successful career and a family, it’s time to forge a new path.

To Dickerson and Arikpo, I am so sorry for the loss of your unborn children. I am so sorry you were treated with such disrespect, and I will work for a world where no other mother is treated in this horrific way.