Michigan enshrines abortion in civil rights law

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently signed a bill establishing a new state holiday that will be celebrated each year on Jan. 30 to honor the legacy of American civil rights activist Fred Korematsu. However, alongside this announcement, the governor made amendments to the state’s civil rights law to prohibit companies from terminating or retaliating against employees who have had an abortion, intensifying concerns about the state’s unrelenting efforts to cement abortion access into state law.

Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act previously provided limited employment discrimination protections for individuals who had abortions performed solely to “save the life of the mother.” The legislation signed last week has broadened the Act’s reach to encompass all individuals who obtain an abortion, regardless of the reasons. The law is slated to go into effect next year. 

The new legislation has insidious implications for pro-life employers. According to Michigan Right to Life, all employer benefit plans that cover pregnancy must now cover elective abortions, removing long-standing conscience protections and making employers now choose between providing abortion coverage or dropping their employee healthcare benefits altogether.

“This legislation was rapidly pushed by the proabortion legislature and now Governor Whitmer to promote their abortion agenda,” stated Genevieve Marnon, Legislative Director, Right to Life of Michigan. “To include an ‘action’ in the Elliot-Larsen law is a radical departure from the intent and spirit of the ELRCA, which was designed to prevent discrimination against people for immutable characteristics such as gender, race, religion etc.”

“Employers are not privy to HIPAA protected healthcare information so their employers have no way of knowing whether they’ve had an abortion unless the employee broadcasts her private medical records,” added Marnon.

When news about the new legislation initially emerged, pro-life advocates in the state wasted no time in voicing their concerns. Among them was Rebecca Mastee, representing the Michigan Catholic Conference, who expressed opposition to the legislation during a March Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety Committee meeting. Her testimony shed light on the apprehensions felt by many within the pro-life community regarding the potential consequences of the legislation.

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“No one should be forced to support another person’s choice to have an elective abortion financially or otherwise … a choice that is often said to be no one else’s business,” Mastee said. “This policy will be detrimental for families when employers cease offering benefits for pregnancy and maternity altogether.”

While the governor claims that the intention behind these actions is to “cement Michigan as a welcoming beacon of opportunity where everyone can envision a bright future for themselves,” the move represents another step towards solidifying the governor’s pro-abortion agenda. The changes to the civil rights law follow closely on the heels of the repeal of Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban just last month.

Extending civil rights protections to individuals who have undergone abortions is far from common, as reported by the Associated Press. New York is considering a bill that would add “pregnancy outcome” as a protected class under nondiscrimination law, while New Mexico recently enacted a law prohibiting government agencies from discriminating against individuals based on their abortion history. In addition, in 2008, the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that employers cannot terminate workers for obtaining abortions, citing protection under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Pro-life advocates in Michigan, including Right to Life of Michigan, remain committed to exploring alternative avenues to safeguard employers’ conscience protections and to ensure the protection of preborn children and their mothers in the state. These efforts aim to counteract the radical erosion of conscience rights and promote a culture that values and upholds the sanctity of every human life.

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