Pro-life groups and a church have filed a lawsuit against New York for a newly signed state law that they argue forces them to hire people who support abortion.
Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Senate Bill 660, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of a person’s reproductive healthcare decisions.
Among its provisions, the new law forbids employers from requiring employees to sign a document that “purports to deny an employee the right to make their own reproductive health care decisions” and denies them access to an employee’s reproductive health history.
The Rochester-based pregnancy care center CompassCare, the Hilton-based First Bible Baptist Church, and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates filed suit last Thursday in United States District Court for the Northern District of New York.
The lawsuit argued that SB 660 was “a transparent attempt to meddle in the affairs of religious and pro-life organizations” by “forcing them to employ and associate with those persons who do not share or live by the organizations’ beliefs regarding abortion, contraception, and the impropriety of sexual relations outside the context of a marriage between a man and a woman.”
“SB 660 compounds this unwarranted interference by prohibiting these organizations from requiring their employees to comply with their missions and beliefs on these contested subjects by having them assent to and/or sign off on the contents of, among other things, employment contracts, employee handbooks, statements of faith, positional statements, and codes of conduct,” continued the suit.
Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Ken Connelly, who is helping to represent the plaintiffs, said in a statement released Monday that government should not “tell pro-life or religious organizations they must hire someone who doesn’t agree with their core mission.”
“New York is directly demeaning religious pro-life pregnancy centers and other faith-based organizations—like religious schools, Catholic hospitals, and even churches—by ordering them to violate their beliefs in key personnel and leadership decisions,” stated Connelly.
“The state is requiring our clients to contradict their convictions and undercut their freedom of association—requirements that are flatly unconstitutional.”
In 2017, California considered Assembly Bill 569 which carried similar provisions barring employers taking action against employees based on their reproductive health care choices and from requiring them to “to sign, agree to, or adhere to a code of conduct or similar document that purports to deny any employee the right to make his or her the employee's own reproductive health care decisions, including the use of a particular drug, device, or medical service."
While the California legislature passed AB 569, then Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill, arguing in a memo that he believed it was too overreaching.
"The California Fair Employment and Housing Act has long banned such adverse actions, except for religious institutions," read the 2017 memo from Brown.
"I believe these types of claims should remain within the jurisdiction of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. For this reason, I am returning AB 569 without my signature."