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Protect pregnant workers — including those who have an abortion

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Pregnant workers should be granted workplace accommodations — regardless of whether they carry their pregnancy to term or have an abortion.

Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) included language that would do just that. By incorporating abortion as a medical condition for which employers may have to make workplace accommodations, including rest breaks, the EEOC has provided an overdue and necessary platform for the rights of those who choose to end unwanted pregnancies.

Unsurprisingly, conservative lawmakers and the Catholic Church are objecting to this inclusion. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said that including abortion was a “political agenda” and “illegal.”  The United Conference of Catholic Bishops claim that such inclusion is “promoting abortion.” And the Christian conservative legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom, said that such a move “force[s] employers to facilitate abortions.”

None of this is accurate. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which went into effect on June 27, requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations “to a worker’s known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.” Such accommodations may include flexible work hours, additional break time to use the bathroom, closer parking spaces, and time to eat and rest. This landmark law should be applauded, considering women could be fired for being pregnant prior to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.

And why should the option of abortion be excluded? After all, about one in four women will have an abortion before they are 45 years old. This statistic does not include trans, nonbinary and gender nonconforming people who also often choose abortion care at some point in their lives. Therefore, abortion undoubtedly impacts millions of workers throughout the United States.

Abortion is a medical procedure, and the language of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act explicitly states “related medical conditions” for pregnancy. Does that not include abortion? Why is abortion vilified and derided instead of being treated as a legitimate medical procedure? Furthermore, are anti-choice legislators prepared to deny all abortions from worker protections? What about instances in which abortion is necessary to save the life of the pregnant person or pregnancy is no longer viable? Will they tell people who have been carrying their pregnancy for five or six months that their potentially intensive procedure does not qualify for workplace accommodations? But more to the point, who gets to decide which abortion is “worthy” of workplace protection or not?

The overarching theme of those seeking to deny abortion accommodation as part of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is based on Christian nationalism — not medical evidence. The medical community has determined that abortion is a legitimate medical procedure related to pregnancy termination. Nobody who has an abortion should be excluded from reasonable workplace accommodations. Such accommodations are necessary for physical and emotional recovery for those who do not continue their pregnancy — for whatever reason.

Check out Freedom From Religion Foundation’s comment on the proposed rule for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

You can also take action and submit a comment to support workers who get abortions.

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