WASHINGTON — Women are sharing their stories on social media of pregnancy discrimination in support of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who came under attack from conservative outlets this week over her claim that she had been fired in 1971 for being pregnant.
"[I]f you don't understand what this furor over the Elizabeth Warren pregnancy firing story is about, ask pretty much any woman in your life over 35," culture writer Anne Helen Petersen wrote on Twitter, prompting some to respond with their personal experiences.
A flurry of blogs and online outlets also came to Warren’s defense, posting stories such as "Elizabeth Warren's critics forgot: Pregnancy lasts for nine months," "If You Think Elizabeth Warren Is Lying, You’ve Never Been a Woman in the Workplace," and "Elizabeth Warren’s Pregnancy Story Is All Too Common. We Know Because We Live It."
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Warren's 2020 Democratic presidential rival, said in a tweet that her mother faced similar obstacles.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who has not endorsed a candidate in the Democratic primary, shared on Twitter that she was asked just this year if a job offer could be rescinded if a person was pregnant. (It has been illegal to do so for more than 40 years.)
On the presidential campaign trail, Warren frequently tells the story of how she was fired from her job as a special needs teacher in June of 1971 when she was visibly 6 months pregnant with her first child. Warren points to this experience of being a 22-year-old woman with a baby on the way and no job as a turning point in her life that ultimately led her down a path to public service.
The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet, on Monday published minutes from an April 1971 board of education meeting documenting a unanimous vote to extend Warren’s teaching job for the following school year. Warren, who would have been around 4 months pregnant at the time of the meeting, says her colleagues did not know then that she was pregnant.
"I was pregnant but nobody knew it," Warren told CBS News in an interview later Monday. "And then a couple of months later, when I was six months pregnant and it was pretty obvious, the principal called me in, wished me luck, and said he was going to hire someone else for the job."
Warren's critics seized on the opportunity to claim that the senator was lying about being fired and sought to further discredit her account by pointing to a 2007 interview at the University of California at Berkeley in which she describes leaving her teaching job but does not mention being fired as her reason for doing so.
Warren defended herself, writing on Twitter that "[w]hen I was 22 and finishing my first year of teaching, I had an experience millions of women will recognize. By June I was visibly pregnant—and the principal told me the job I'd already been promised for the next year would go to someone else."
Warren also posted a video of herself reading a handful of tweets that women sent her sharing their own experiences of pregnancy discrimination.
"Now, this was a long time ago," Warren says in the video in reference to her job loss, "but we know, this kind of stuff still happens today. Sometimes subtly, and frankly, sometimes not so subtly. So, I get out and on the campaign trail, I tell my story. And I’ve asked other people to tell their stories as well. I think that’s a good way to fight back."
Many were also quick to defend Warren’s 2007 speech, noting that personal experiences of discrimination are not always easy to discuss publicly. In one of the tweets that Warren read in the video, a woman named Sarah writes that it took her mom more than 30 years to tell her own daughters how she lost her job after she became pregnant, adding that women "don’t share this stuff willy nilly."
"So true, Sarah," Warren said in response.
Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, seven years after Warren says she was let go from her job, making it illegal to discriminate against pregnant women. But the problem still persists.
Thousands of women file pregnancy discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission every year and a recent investigative report from The New York Times demonstrates that discrimination remains prevalent across industries for pregnant people today.