By Erika Ahern, the Catholic Vote
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) this week issued a regulation establishing a national mandate on employers to accommodate workers’ abortions under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA).
The alarming rule is now open for a 60-day period during which citizens can comment with their objections. In particular, the EOCC is seeking comments on whether or not to provide more specific “religious organization provisions” in its rules. CatholicVote is calling on citizens to submit comments via an easy-to-use portal, including by indicating that yes, they do want more religious provisions.
President Joe Biden signed the PWFA in December 2022 to the applause of national abortion organizations such as NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood, as well as pro-life groups like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The original act required employers to reasonably accommodate a worker’s pregnancy, childbirth, and “related medical conditions,” but left the interpretation of those terms to the Biden administration’s EEOC, the federal agency responsible for regulating workplace discrimination laws.
The Quiet Part Out Loud
In response to the concerns of several pro-life senators that the EOCC could use the PWFA to force employers to facilitate abortions, Senator Bob Casey, D-PA, stated emphatically on the Senate floor on December 8, 2022:
Under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act … the EEOC could not — could not — issue any regulation that requires abortion leave, nor does the act permit the EEOC to require employers to provide abortion leave in violation of state law.
On Friday, however, the EOCC did exactly that.
The regulation, published August 11, specifies “related medical conditions” as
… current pregnancy, past pregnancy, potential pregnancy, lactation (including breastfeeding and pumping), use of birth control, menstruation, infertility and fertility treatments, endometriosis, miscarriage, stillbirth, or having or choosing not to have an abortion, among other conditions.
The rule also notes that “nothing in the PWFA requires or forbids an employer to pay for health insurance benefits for an abortion,” but insists that employers must nevertheless provide “reasonable accommodations” for “pregnancy-related medical conditions.”
“That could include everything from paid leave for abortions to in vitro appointments, both of which violate our Catholic faith,” noted CatholicVote Director of Government Affairs Tom McClusky.
And the regulation is notably weak on conscience protections.
On page 107, the EOCC cites section 702(a) of the Civil Rights Act, stating that the PWFA’s abortion provisions will not apply to religious employers “with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion.”
In other words, a Catholic employer will not have to accommodate the abortions or in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures of its Catholic workers, but it says nothing about the non-Catholic employees of that same company.
CatholicVote President Brian Burch called the provision not only an “attack” on Catholic Americans, but also “divisive.”
“Once again the Democrats have found a new way to further divide America,” he said. “Under these regulations, Protestants will be dissuaded from hiring Catholics, Catholics from hiring Muslims, Muslims from hiring Jews, etc.”
Analysts at both CatholicVote and the Heritage Foundation warned early on that the inclusion of that vague “related medical conditions” phrase meant the legislation would be used to force employers to accommodate abortion. The EOCC has a demonstrated history of interpreting such phrases as including procedures to which religious Americans object, including abortion, sterilization, and IVF.
Furthermore, critics noted that without robust conscience protections, the PWFA would open faithful Americans to years of court battles to fend off attacks on their religious freedom.
“During debate, some senators, including Utah Republican Mike Lee, offered a religious freedom amendment to the bill as a solution to this problem,” McClusky said. “In response, the supporters of the bill shot down those efforts, fully knowing the results that would occur.”
Read the full article here: A Cautionary Tale: New Federal Regs Threaten Pro-Life Employers – CatholicVote org