A “reproductive heath non-discrimination” measure passed the California Senate Tuesday and is headed to the California assembly for a concurrence vote and then to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. The legislation would prohibit employers from “taking any adverse action” against an employee for any “reproductive health” decision including “the use of any drug, device, or medical service.” Some religious organizations say the legislation is unnecessary and will threaten their ability to have codes of employee conduct in line with their religious beliefs.
The bill would allow for a “ministerial exception for employees of religiously affiliated institutions," but says that exception, “should apply only to an ‘employee who leads a religious organization, conducts worship services or important religious ceremonies or rituals, or serves as a messenger or teacher of its faith.’”
“Californians’ freedom to make reproductive health decisions free of interference from their employers is a matter of fundamental and substantial public policy import,” according to the measure.
Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, the bill's sponsor, says that “There are employers who cross the line by invading the privacy and personal lives of the women who work for them, and far too often women are punished financially for becoming pregnant and having children,” adding that “a woman should never face repercussions in the workplace for her reproductive choices.”
However Steve Pehanich, Director of Communications and Advocacy with the California Catholic Conference told Townhall that the measure is “not necessary at all” because “the provisions they’re worried about are already covered” in other parts of state and federal law.
“It’s just a way to get lawsuits going and harass religious employers and churches,” he said.
The Catholic Conference’s website points out that “existing law is very clear that an employer cannot discriminate based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Such prohibitions are covered under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) of 1959 and have been enforced by the courts for decades. (A host of other state and federal laws also protect employees.)”
The say the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL)-sponsored legislation is inventing “problems” that need “solutions” and is "designed to complicate laws and increase the potential for costly litigation. (Which may be why labor attorney’s support the bill.) It also specifically targets religious employers."
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League claims the bill “specifically targets codes of conduct involving employees’ ‘reproductive health care decisions.’ That, and its full-throated endorsement by groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice California, make clear the bill’s true intent: to undermine Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life, by forcing the Church to employ people who publicly reject that teaching. It is a thinly disguised attempt to impose radical pro-abortion policies on religious organizations.”
NARAL celebrated their measure’s passage Monday.
"All Californians should have the ability to make private decisions that affect their reproductive health, economic security, and other aspects of their lives without employers intruding,” said Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California. "With this vote, California is sending a message that we stand against discrimination in all its forms and that our ability to determine if, when, and with whom to raise a family is central to ensuring our economic security. While Trump and his cronies seek to grant broad licenses to discriminate, California is showing that we stand for reproductive freedom and economic justice for all. ”