Reproductive Rights

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to include abortion protections

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has now been finalized by federal regulatory authorities, ensuring that workers are entitled to receive “reasonable” accommodations in line with their conditions arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. This also includes the right of a person to receive accommodations to have and recover from an abortion.

This development follows the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) publishing a set of guidelines that included abortion in its draft rules. The legislation establishes a basic structure for pregnant workers or those with related conditions to have their job conditions modified, a provision that should be granted without question. The law does not require employers to cover abortion costs, just to provide time off for the procedure and any related recovery time.  

While the legislation garnered robust support from Congress, it unsurprisingly faced backlash from many anti-abortion groups. They believed it was an attempt by the federal government to impose a nationwide abortion mandate. The EEOC received over 50,000 comments demanding that abortion be excluded from the legislation, but they also received nearly an equal amount commending the decision. However, the criticism from anti-abortion activists and some lawmakers centers not on abortion itself but on the argument against federal mandates on abortion at a national level. This includes Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, who called it the Biden administration’s attempt to “smuggle an abortion mandate” into legislation.

The EEOC has defended their decision to include abortion in the final rules based on the longstanding interpretation of Title VII, which “protects workers from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and requires covered employers to treat workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions the same as others similar in their ability or inability to work.” The Bipartisan Policy Center found in 2022 that 20% of mothers have personally experienced pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, clearly showing the need for this strengthened legislation.

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