(LifeSiteNews) The proposed “Pregnant Workers Fairness Act,” which could pass Congress during the lame-duck session between now and the new Congress in January 2023, could be harmful to religious freedom and the sanctity of life, according to some analyses.
The legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2021 but awaits a vote in the U.S. Senate. The bill ostensibly reinforces protections for pregnant workers, such as providing them reasonable accommodations in the workplace; however, vague language could be exploited to require employers to pay for abortions.
“Under the bill… pro-life groups can be sued if they don’t provide their employees special leave to get abortions,” Tom McClusky, director of government affairs for Catholic Vote, remarked in comments on the proposed legislation.
He warned that the bill does not incorporate protections under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. “I’m surprised some pro-life groups that aren’t covered under RFRA don’t seem to realize how this bill would impact their own operations,” McClusky said.
Catholic Vote’s Erika Ahern also noted that the definition of discrimination will be deferred to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which currently takes a pro-abortion stance on pregnancy issues. “The EEOC does not typically act in a way that aligns with pro-life or Catholic views. In general, the EEOC has interpreted ‘pregnancy-related’ discrimination issues to include protecting workers’ ‘right’ to abortion,” Ahern wrote.
Despite these concerns, the bill is backed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), who wrote that they “applaud these efforts which demonstrate a respect for life, family, and the dignity of workers.”
The USCCB did not respond to a request for comment from LifeSiteNews about the pro-life and religious liberty concerns about the legislation, nor its misapplication of a papal encyclical to support the bill. The letter cites Pope John Paul II’s Laborem Exercens to advocate for the bill to become law.