8 Pro-Life Groups to DC: We Will Not Obey Your Abortion Hiring Law

Pro-life activists participate in the annual March for Life in Washington, January 22, 2014. Pope Francis used Twitter to back the annual anti-abortion rally, which was expected to draw hundreds of thousands of activists to Washington on Wednesday. | (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Representatives of eight pro-life organizations based in Washington, D.C. signed a joint statement saying they will not comply with a new law passed by the City Council that would prevent them from making hiring and firing decisions based upon an employee's position on abortion.

"Despite the enactment of this unjust law, we will continue to hire employees who share our commitment to the dignity of every member of the human family. We will not abandon the purpose of our organizations in order to comply with this illegal and unjust law. We will vigorously resist any effort under RHNDA to violate our constitutionally protected fundamental rights," the Monday statement says, in part.

RHNDA is a reference to the "Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act," which went into effect in the District of Columbia this week. It states that employers in the capital city cannot take opinions about abortion or an employee's decision to have an abortion into account for hiring and firing.

The Act amends a previous D.C. law and says that employers may not discriminate based upon "reproductive health decision making, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service, because of or on the basis of an employer's personal beliefs about such services."

Those signing the statement represent Alliance Defending Freedom, Americans United for Life, Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, March for Life, Susan B. Anthony List, and Association of Christian Schools International.

The U.S. House of Representatives additionally passed a resolution stating its disapproval of the D.C. law. The move was unusual. Twenty-five years have passed since the House passed a similar measure.

The City Council was initially responding to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby last summer, which allowed closely-held companies a religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate. The Council first wanted to force employers to do what the Supreme Court said you could not force employers to do — violate their religious beliefs regarding birth control, including abortifacients. The Council backed off that idea and instead passed RHNDA.

The Council also passed the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014, which removed an exemption for religious schools to the city's gay discrimination ordinance. Religious schools in the district are still allowed to only hire adherents to their faith, but beliefs about homosexuality may not be a consideration. The change in the law also means that religious schools cannot reject student groups that endorse views about human sexuality that violate the schools' religious teachings.

ADF, a conservative legal group, has already stated that it will use its resources to defend the religious freedom of groups accused of violating either of these laws.

"Pro-life organizations in our nation's capital should not be forced to pay for abortions or hire those who oppose their pro-life beliefs," said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox. "While the D.C. Council has retreated from this law's original goal, which was to force pro-life organizations to pay for abortions in violation of their conscience, RHNDA remains an unnecessary and illegal attack on pro-life conscience that Congress must stop and that we will fight, if necessary, in the courts."

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