The Biden administration recently published a proposed rule regarding the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), a new law that requires employers to accommodate workers based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Crucially, the proposed rule includes protections for employees who get abortions — and anti-abortion religious extremists are attacking this provision.
Please don’t let this negative feedback dominate the public comments of this proposed rule! You can review the FFRF Action Fund’s public comment, or read more details below, and then use our automated system to submit one with the click of a button. You can submit a comment with our suggested language or come up with your own.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) was added as an amendment to the FY 2023 federal appropriations bill. That bill was passed, and the PWFA went into effect earlier this year. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was required to issue regulations regarding the law, and those regulations are now open to public comment.
The proposed rule defines “Pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” in a manner consistent with the use of that phrase in Title VII (42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k)). This consistency is an asset in itself, but specifically the inclusion of medical conditions related to abortions provides essential protections for hundreds of thousands of American workers who receive abortion care every year.
The inclusion of abortion as a medical condition “related” to pregnancy is consistent with the plain meaning of these words. Only through the most acrobatic linguistic contortions could one argue that recovering from a medical procedure terminating a pregnancy is not a pregnancy-related medical condition. The only motivation behind opposition to this plain-language rule stems from fanatical anti-abortion views, closely tied with sectarian religious doctrine as well as Christian nationalist beliefs, not from reason or medical evidence. There is no reason to think Congress intended anything other than what it said, which is that the PWFA protects all pregnancy-related medical conditions.
Failing to include abortion as a legitimate medical procedure under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would not only be invidious discrimination but would also have dire and unjust consequences. For example, a pregnant person who requires an emergency, potentially intensive abortion procedure to avoid life-threatening complications would be ineligible for workplace accommodations.
The passage of the PWFA is a significant step toward protecting workers’ civil rights, and toward achieving women’s equity in the workplace. We urge our advocates to submit public comments to the EEOC in strong support of this proposed rule.