A New York law would force abortion orthodoxy on pro-life employers, including crisis pregnancy centers and churches. The law would undermine the very reason many pro-life centers exist — to prevent abortion and protect the lives of the unborn. Two pregnancy center groups and a church have filed a federal lawsuit to prevent the law from going into effect.
Early this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) signed SB 660, the so-called “Boss Bill,” which prohibits New York employers from firing, demoting, or taking other action against employees based on “reproductive health decision making.” The law also bans any “waiver” or code of conduct preventing an employee from making “reproductive health care decisions” — code for getting an abortion. Finally, the bill requires employers to cite this law in any employee handbook and allows employees to sue if this “right” is infringed.
Curiously, Cuomo signed the bill with little fanfare. His office did not even put out a press release related to the bill on the date of the signing (November 8), despite many press releases on funding for an animal shelter, a vaping investigation, and a new engineering facility. In January, by contrast, Cuomo signed New York’s radical abortion bill with great fanfare, including lighting up the One World Trade Center in pink.
Less than a week after Cuomo signed the bill, three pro-life organizations filed a lawsuit to prevent it from going into effect. CompassCare Pregnancy Services, a pro-life pregnancy care center in Rochester, teamed up with the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), a pregnancy center membership organization with 41 member centers in New York, and First Bible Baptist Church located in Hilton.
According to the lawsuit, “SB 660 intentionally and by design sacrifices the associational, speech, and religious freedom of employers in New York State—including religious non-profits, churches, and schools— to the government’s desire to promote abortion rights by gutting the ability of pro-life employers to hire to their pro-life missions.”
Denise Harle, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represents the plaintiffs, explained the dangers of the Boss Bill in a New York Post op-ed.
“The Boss Bill tells employers they have to be willing to employ people whose beliefs and behavior as to ‘reproductive-health decisions’ run counter to their own,” she wrote. “That’s bad enough if you run a family-owned restaurant. It is intolerable if you run a church, a Catholic school or a pregnancy care center — and now are required by your own state government to hire people who have no respect for your faith and who oppose your pro-life convictions.”
It would be bad enough if the government were merely requiring pro-life employers to hire women who had abortions or support abortion. Yet since the bill does not bother to define “reproductive health decision making,” Harle argued that it may restrict employers’ ability to set rules on a whole host of complex moral and sexual issues, such as “sexual conduct, procreation, pregnancy, contraception, surrogacy, in-vitro fertilization or sexually transmitted disease.”
“Under SB 660, an employer can’t even require workers to sign a code of moral conduct. Adding insult to injury, employers are forced to include these reproductive-health rights in their employee handbooks — effectively compelling them to communicate the government’s ideological message,” she lamented.
Indeed, the Boss Bill was first introduced to combat the religious freedom of employers like Hobby Lobby to refuse to pay for certain kinds of contraceptives for their employees. State Senator Jennifer Metzger drafted the bill after the Supreme Court struck down the Obamacare contraceptive mandate in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014). She condemned that decision as a “dangerous, slippery slope.”
In remarks this past January, Metzger condemned the “over 100 lawsuits … filed by employers determined to deny workers coverage of reproductive health services and products based on the employer’s own personal and political beliefs.” She explained that “the Boss Bill seeks to prevent this further encroachment by employers into the private decisions of employees.”
Yet Hobby Lobby had good reason to oppose the specific kinds of contraception the company refused to pay for. Hobby Lobby did not refuse to provide any contraception, but only the forms of contraception that arguably constitute abortion.
“Further proof of SB 660’s stark animus toward, and its intentional targeting of, religion is provided by the complete absence of any religious exemptions, even for churches,” the lawsuit claims.
Tragically, this is not the first case in which NIFLA fought a law forcing crisis pregnancy centers to support abortion. Last year, the Supreme Court struck down a California law mandating that these pro-life centers must advertise abortion. In NIFLA v. Becerra, the Court ruled that the law “imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill [the centers’] protected speech.”
In both California and New York, liberal states passed laws quashing dissent on abortion following Planned Parenthood’s playbook.
Abortion advocates argue that crisis pregnancy centers are not real clinics, and therefore they must advertise for abortion clinics. They also claim that employers should never be able to fire employees for getting abortions or advocating for abortion, even if the employees work at companies that exist to save unborn babies from abortion. These amount to quasi-religious tests forcing pro-life centers to violate the very reason for their existence.
The Constitution protects free speech, religious freedom, and free association for all people, religious and secular alike. The Supreme Court rulings in the Hobby Lobby and NIFLA cases suggest the Boss Bill should lose in court, but abortion advocates will continue to push legislation like this. Both the LGBT and abortion movements are targeting religious freedom to force their views on those who disagree.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.