Biden cannot force religious employers to provide accommodations for elective abortions, court rules

Several Catholic organizations have won, at least temporarily, in their efforts to prevent the Biden administration from enforcing a rule that would require them to provide their employees with accommodations for elective abortions in violation of their deeply held religious beliefs.

In an opinion released Monday, federal judge David Joseph issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Biden administration from enforcing a rule interpreting the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to require employers to provide their employees with accommodations to obtain an abortion against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Lafayette (Rome Catholic Diocese of Lafayette) and Lake Charles in Louisiana, along with The Catholic University of America (The Catholic University of America) and the states of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Joseph's decision comes after the Catholic organizations filed a trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana last month asking a federal judge to strike down the rule. The states of Louisiana and Mississippi challenged the rule in a separate complaint and Joseph's ruling covers both cases, which have now been consolidated.

Get Our Latest Free

Subscribe to receive a daily/weekly email with the best stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

Joseph's preliminary injunction prevents the Biden administration from enforcing the “requirement that covered entities provide accommodation for employees' elective abortions that are not necessary to treat a pregnancy-related illness” against the states of Louisiana and Mississippi and their agencies, employers with 15 .or more employees in the two states, as well as the Catholic organizations named as plaintiffs.

The ruling will remain in effect until “final judgment is entered in the consolidated cases.” Efforts to ensure a permanent blockade against the rule continue.

Passed as part of the Consolidated Appropriation Act of 2023, massive omnibus bill passed by the US Congress in 2022, the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act requires employers with 15 or more workers to accommodate the “pregnancy, childbirth or related illness” of a “qualified employee”.

The law gave the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission the authority to “promulgate regulations” that “provide examples of reasonable accommodations addressing known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related illnesses.” The regulations implemented by the executive branch last year include “having or choosing not to have an abortion” in a list of examples of what constitutes “pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions” and, therefore, must be accommodated by employers.

The regulations also defined “related medical conditions” as “medical conditions that relate to, are affected by, or arise from pregnancy or childbirth, as applied to the specific employee or applicant in question, including, but not limited to, termination of pregnancy . . , including by abortion, stillbirth or abortion.”

Joseph, appointed to the bench by former President Donald Trump, determined that the EEOC “arguably exceeded its statutory authority by including an abortion accommodation in the Final Rule.”

Arguing that “'abortion' is a term that is widely understood by all,” Joseph wrote, “If Congress intended to require employers to accommodate elective abortions under the PWFA, it would have spoken clearly when enacting the statute, especially given the enormous social, religious and political importance of the abortion problem in our nation.”

Instead, he noted, “Legislators from both sides of the aisle have expressly stated that the PWFA does not address abortion” as the measure has been considered.

Laura Wolk Slavis, counsel for the law firm Becket, which represents the Catholic organizations, welcomed Monday's decision. statement describing the ruling as “an important step to ensure that American workplaces can be free to continue serving their communities consistent with their beliefs.”

Slavis added, “The EEOC twisted a law protecting expectant mothers and their babies and singled out the workplaces of more than 130 million Americans to support abortion.”

“That is an abuse of power – no one should have to choose between their conscience and protecting pregnant women,” she added. “Banning employers nationwide from affirming life is unacceptable and illegal.”

As Becket explained, “The federal government has 60 days to appeal the decision.” Any appeal would go before a court of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *