8
Biology versus the Law

Fresh from brawling courts And dusty purlieus of the law.

Sir Alfred Tennyson
In Memoriam

A mere two months after Kahn, the Court decided the first in a line of cases that focused squarely on an aspect of women's biological uniqueness (and, Montagu would say, one source of their special power): pregnancy. In March 1974, the Court heard arguments challenging a California disability insurance system that paid benefits to privately employed individuals who were temporarily unable to work because of disabilities not covered by worker's compensation [ Geduldig v. Aiello, 94 S.Ct. 2485 ( 1974)]. The state's program was funded entirely by mandatory contributions deducted from the wages of participating employees, and the only way for an employee to avoid contributing to this program was voluntary participation in any one of a number of private, state-approved programs. If a participating employee suffered from a disability not covered by the worker's compensation program, s/he was eligible for compensation for a period ranging from nine days to twenty-six weeks. The disabilities covered by the program included a large number of mental and physical conditions, though not all disabling ones. There was, however, one very noticeable and specific exclusion: "certain disabilities that are attributable to pregnancy" [ Geduldig v. Aiello, 94 S.Ct. 2485, 2487 ( 1974)].

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