October 10, 2023
On Tuesday, October 10, 2023, EPPC scholars submitted public comments on proposed regulations by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The PWFA fills a longstanding gap in employment law and requires employers to provide their employees reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions in the workplace. However, EEOC’s proposal goes beyond the text of the PWFA to impose an abortion accommodation mandate on America’s employers.
EPPC scholars Rachel N. Morrison, Eric Kniffin, and Natalie Dodson submitted a public comment, stating:
We are deeply committed to supporting pregnant women, mothers, and their unborn children, including in the workplace. We celebrate the long overdue employment accommodation protections in law that women now have as a result of the passage of the PWFA. We are concerned, however, that EEOC’s expansive proposed regulations implementing the PWFA have turned the pro-woman, pro-mother, and pro-baby law on its head. The EEOC’s proposed regulations erase the very class of women the law is meant to protect: pregnant workers. The proposed regulations are far broader than those the pro-pregnancy and pro-childbirth PWFA would require. The EEOC’s expansive proposal raises serious religious freedom and free speech concerns for religious organizations and pro-life employers. Indeed, the Commission is trying to use the PWFA to regulate way beyond pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions to mandate accommodations for even the opposite—abortion. This proposed abortion mandate is contrary to the statutory text and congressional intent of the PWFA.
The scholars urged the EEOC to “drop its abortion mandate, fully recognize employers’ statutory and constitutional protections for religious freedom and free speech, and keep the PWFA pro-woman, pro-pregnancy, and pro-childbirth.”
EPPC scholar Erika Bachiochi also submitted a public comment with former Department of Labor Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy Jonathan Berry, who wrote on behalf of pro-life women legal scholars Bachiochi, Helen Alvaré, and Ivana Greco. Their comment likewise urged EEOC to reconsider its abortion mandate and protect religious liberty, explaining EEOC’s “proposals include much that we celebrate as pro-women and pro-family, proposals that protect women and their unborn children when they are at their most economically vulnerable. But the proposals also threaten religious liberty, free speech, and advocacy for the unborn.”
Religious, pro-life, medical, legal, and policy organizations and experts also submitted public comments on EEOC’s proposed regulations.
About the EPPC comment signers:
Rachel N. Morrison, J.D., is an EPPC Fellow, director of EPPC’s HHS Accountability Project, and former attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Eric Kniffin, J.D., is an EPPC Fellow, member of the HHS Accountability Project, and a former attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
Erika Bachiochi, J.D., is an EPPC Fellow in the Life and Family Initiative and author of The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision (2021).
Natalie Dodson is a Policy Analyst and member of EPPC’s HHS Accountability Project.
Other organizations submitting comments on the proposed rule include:
- Advancing American Freedom
- Alliance Defending Freedom
- The American Association of Christian Schools
- Americans United for Life
- Care Net
- Catholic Benefits Association
- Christian Employers Alliance
- Christian Medical & Dental Associations
- Democrats for Life of America
- Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
- Former EEOC General Counsel Sharon Fast Gustafson
- Heritage Foundation
- National Institute of Family and Life Advocates
- The National Catholic Bioethics Center, Catholic Medical Association, and National Association of Catholic Nurses
- Pro-Life Scholars
- Students for Life of America
- Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America
- The Stanley M. Herzog Foundation
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and The Catholic University of America