Biden Labor Regulator Rolls Out Final Rule Requiring Employers To Give Time Off For Abortions

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Will Kessler Contributor
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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued its final rule on Monday to enforce the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), giving new protections for women seeking abortions.

The EEOC rule dictates that abortions are to be included under the definition of “pregnancy, childbirth or related medical considerations,” requiring that employers with 15 or more employees give time off to attend an abortion procedure and for recovery. The rule has been hotly debated since it was first proposed in August 2023, with the EEOC receiving around 54,000 comments urging the commission to not include abortion in the definition, while 40,000 comments called for the opposite. (RELATED: Biden Admin Signals Support For Embattled High-Speed Rail Project. Critics Say It’s A ‘Boondoggle’)

“Under the PWFA, a worker can seek a reasonable accommodation for ‘pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions,'” the EEOC told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “A limitation related to an abortion is a potential reason for which a worker could request a reasonable accommodation. The PWFA’s requirements are narrow and will likely concern only a request by a qualified employee for leave from work. As the EEOC makes clear in its final rule, nothing in the PWFA requires an employer to pay for health insurance benefits for an abortion. And the defenses employers have, including religious defenses and undue hardship, would also apply in situations where an employee is seeking a reasonable accommodation for a limitation related to an abortion.”

The rule does not require that employers give paid time off to employees seeking abortions and does not compel employers or employer-sponsored health insurance plans to pay for the procedure, according to the rule. Employers also do not have to pay for the travel expenses of women seeking abortions.

“Many of the comments urging the Commission to exclude abortion from the definition of  ‘pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions’ expressed the view that abortion is the destruction of a human life, that it is objectionable for moral or religious reasons, and that it is not health care,” the EEOC rule states. “The Commission recognizes these are sincere, deeply held convictions and are often part of an individual’s religious beliefs.”

The EEOC has been emboldened in the past year by the confirmation of Kalpana Kotagal, a left-wing lawyer who gives the commission a 3-2 majority for Democrats. Prior to Kotagal’s confirmation, the commission was stuck in gridlock, stalling Democratic efforts to issue rules on artificial intelligence bias, LGBT bathroom guidance and diversity, equity and inclusion policies.

“The Commission also received many comments that expressed deeply held beliefs, including religious beliefs, that abortion is a necessary part of health care and that an employer’s religious beliefs should not dictate an employee’s ability to receive a reasonable accommodation under the PWFA,” the rule continues. “In the final regulation, the Commission includes abortion in its definition of ‘pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions,’ as proposed in the NPRM and consistent with the Commission’s and courts’ longstanding interpretation of the same phrase in Title VII.”

The Supreme Court overturned the long-standing precedent on abortion set out in Roe v. Wade in June 2022, ruling 6-3 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that there is not a constitutional right to the procedure.

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