GOP Attorneys General File Lawsuit to Ban Abortions For Working Pregnant Women in New Law

A group of 19 attorneys general of red-leaning states are suing the Biden administration over protections established for pregnant women in the workplace, citing the addition of abortions as “illegal.” 

The group argues the Biden administration is forcing abortion accommodations even in states where the practice is illegal by passing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), a bipartisan bill protecting pregnant women against workplace discrimination. 

As the federal law was passed in December 2022, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) pushed abortion as a “related medical condition” to be covered by the law—meaning employees looking for abortion care can seek accommodations from their employers, including time off for an appointment or recovery. 

“Under this radical interpretation of the PWFA, business owners will face federal lawsuits if they don’t accommodate employees’ abortions, even if those abortions are illegal under state law,” Arkansas Republican Attorney General Tim Griffin said in a statement

The other states participating in the lawsuit are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia.

The act also requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide “reasonable accommodations” for a worker’s limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions—including fertility and infertility treatments, according to the Associated Press. However, there are restrictions if accommodations put the employer at risk for hardship. 

Despite criticism from conservative AGs, the EEOC has stood its ground, citing the longstanding interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. The agency highlighted the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which provided inadequate protection for pregnant workers. Due to a lack of protections, Title VII was amended to ban discrimination on a pregnancy basis. 

The amendment marked a crucial shift in the age of gender equality when pregnant women were often denied or removed from jobs.

Natasha Jackson, a former account executive at a rental furniture store in Charleston, South Carolina, advocated for this law after losing her job due to her pregnancy.

“I actually hid my pregnancy as long as I could because I was scared about what could happen,” Jackson told the Tennessee Lookout. After her doctor told her not to lift more than 25 pounds, her employer wouldn’t let her move temporarily to a role to avoid heavy lifting. 

She was forced to go on leave and eventually lost her job. “That hardship affected me years on, and it took away the joy of being pregnant,” she said. “They made me feel guilty and ashamed for having a baby.”

Lawsuits aside, labor advocated are praising the new law, especially for women of color working in low-wage and physically demanding jobs but denied accommodations ranging from time off for medical appointments to the ability to sit or stand on the job.

Supporters of the bill, like U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and big business groups, feel there should be more clarity about what accommodations employers are required to give pregnant workers. During the debate with the EEOC, Casey said the EEOC “could not issue any regulation that requires abortion leave, nor does the act permit the EEOC to require employers to provide abortions in violation of state law.” 

However, EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows said, “No one should have to risk their job for their health just because they are pregnant, recovering from childbirth, or dealing with a related medical condition.” 

The law is scheduled to go into effect June 18.

RELATED. CONTENT: New Report Says State Abortion Bans Threaten Nearly 7M Black Women In Nation

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