New D.C. reproductive health law trumps faith-based employment concerns

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
CE News

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) -- Conservatives in the District of Columbia fear religious organizations could now be forced to hire employees who disagree with their mission as efforts by the House of Represenatives to reverse a new measure failed over the weekend.

The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act passed in December by the D.C. City Council has concerned many conservatives who fear religious organizations could be forced to hire employees who advocate abortion, birth control, and in-vitro fertilization -- among other reproductive services some religious groups may find not in keeping with the tenets of their faith.

House Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) led the charge to overturn the law arguing the council's decision violates the religious freedoms of faith-based groups and could ultimately force D. C. anti-abortion organizations to hire people who disagree with that mission.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) -- prior to announcing he is a candidate for president -- had joined Black in spearheading the effort and introduced the resolution in the Senate.

The bill's supporters claim the legislation aims to protect employees or prospective employees from losing employment or compensation based reproductive health choices. Many slanted their arguments claiming that overturning the bill would be a "war on women."

Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga) countered the idea stating, "This is not a war on women. It is an outright war on religious liberties."

The measure specifically states that employers cannot discriminate against an individual "with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privilege of employment because of or on the basis of the individual's or a dependent's 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."

Among the medical provisions thought to be protected by the law are the decision to conceive by in-vitro fertilization, birth control or seeking an abortion.

"While the law's supporters in the big-abortion lobby claim that this act protects against discrimination, the truth is this oppressive measure directly targets the First Amendment freedoms of pro-life and faith-based employers in our nation's capital," Black, the sponsor of the resolution opposing the measure said according to The Blaze. "Congress has a constitutional duty to ensure that our laws are upheld in the District of Columbia and we would be shirking our duties as legislators to allow this discriminatory 'nondiscrimination' act to go unchallenged."

Under the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, established in 1973 to give District residents more control over local affairs, Congress reviews all measures passed by the Council before they become law and can nullify any legislation the Council passes by voting do so within 30 days.

On Thursday, Black's resolution of disapproval passed the House 228-192. However, the Senate failed to vote on the measure by the deadline.

Even if Black's resolution moved forward it still required the president's signature. The president did not support attempts to overturn the District Council's decision and according to The Jurist, an online legal news source, threatened to veto the resolution if passed -- calling the effort an "unacceptable effect of undermining the will of District of Columbia citizens."