Afternoon Roundup: Wal-Mart’s Wage Discrimination Problem


A $3.5 billion maternity care problem; another Catholic hospital gets to expand and limit its services to women; female domestic partners on their babies’ birth certificates; and Wal-Mart’s wage discrimination case.

  • From California Watch today, Nathanael Johnson asks, “What would maternity care look like if doctors intervened only when medically necessary?” Intermountain Healthcare, a Utah non-profit health provider, released a study yesterday, “…showing that if the U.S. cesarean surgery rate (32 percent of all births at last count) fell to the rate in Intermountain hospitals (21 percent), the country would save $3.5 billion in medical charges each year.” There are a couple of caveats to the conclusion so read the full story here
  • The Maryland Health Care Commission released its decision today and will allow the Catholic Holy Cross Hospital to move ahead with plans to build a new center in Montgomery County, MD. I wrote about this situation last week since it’s an important issue of women’s health access (or lack of access, as this case shows). Catholic hospitals like Holy Cross will not provide contraception, in-vitro fertilization, treatment for ectopic pregnancies and abortion care (even when it’s to save the mother’s life). Catholics for Choice, in a release today, acknowledged the recent decision, by a Catholic hospital, to perform a life-saving, emergency abortion on a young mother of four; and the subsequent decision by the Archbishop in the region to revoke the hospital’s official “Catholic” status,”

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, said, “If the Catholic bishops have their way, many medical treatments and preventative measures we take for granted may be under threat.  Memories of the pressure that the US bishops brought to bear in last year’s healthcare reform battle are still fresh.

“The 200 US bishops who oversee dioceses do not represent the views of all Catholics, nor even a majority. In fact, a majority of Catholics do not want their bishops to be involved in healthcare decisions at all.

“While the bishops may claim to speak on behalf on Catholics nationwide, we know that the majority of American Catholics do not agree with the bishops’ rigid stance on reproductive health issues.”

  • Rep. Chris Smith introduced into the anti-choice Republican led House today, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” Act. Of course, we already prohibit this through the Hyde Amendment. This bill, however, goes further and attempts to codify this mandate into law permanently. It does much more than that, though. It also, notes the ACLU, “would increase the tax liability of millions of Americans and penalize businesses that seek to offer insurance plans that cover abortion along with other pregnancy-related care, reducing the likelihood that insurance companies would provide coverage for abortion.”
  • Good news from Washington State (and with a H/T to my fabulous midwife friend Erin for the information)! The Washington State Department of Health has adopted a new policy on filing birth certificates for children of female registered domestic partners. According to the policy change, “Effective February 1, 2011, a female registered domestic partner who consents to her partner being artificially inseminated can be listed on the birth record as a parent of the child at the time the record is filed.” Now female partners can both be listed on the birth certificate – as parents: When printed copies of the birth certificate are issued, the parent labels will read “parent” and “parent” instead of “mother” and “father.”
  • And, finally, today Wal-Mart filed its brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to bar current and former female employees from filing a class-action lawsuit against the company for wage discrimination. The company claims that the women should not be able to file as a “class.” From the National Women’s Law Center’s President Marcia D. Greenberger, “The case, now before the Supreme Court, raises a critical question about the ability of employees to join together as a group to legally challenge employer practices that have broad impact across a workforce..

“If the Supreme Court were to limit the ability of women to assert their rights as a group, it would be tantamount to closing the courthouse door on large numbers of women across the country who don’t have the means to file their own cases

Nowhere is accountability more important than in the retail sector, where the wage gap between men and women is the highest among all industries.  Annual earnings data show that women working full time are paid 77 cents for each dollar earned by a man.  National Women’s Law Center analysis of the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data demonstrates that full-time female workers in sales earned less than two-thirds (64.6 percent) of their male counterparts’ weekly wages in the third quarter of 2010. The last time women as a whole suffered from such a large gap was in 1981, when women earned just 64.4 percent of men’s earnings. This means that women in sales are approximately 30 years behind female workers on the whole in terms of the wage gap.”

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