A D.C.-based coalition of organizations that oppose legal abortion has announced it will not obey the city’s Reproductive Health Anti-Discrimination Act (RHNDA). In a letter released yesterday, the groups called RHNDA “unprecedented and illegal” and said they “will continue to resist” the law.
RHNDA, passed earlier last year by the D.C. City Council, prohibits employers from firing employees based on their reproductive health-care choices. That includes the use of contraception and fertility technologies, like in-vitro fertilization, in addition to abortion. It also protects employees who become pregnant outside wedlock, an act still considered sinful by many religious groups.
The coalition’s letter, however, ignores the full range of the law’s protections and focuses instead on abortion.“RHNDA prohibits employers in the District including nonsectarian pro-life and religious organizations from ‘discriminating’ on the basis of ‘decisions’ reached by employees related to ‘reproductive health’ matters including the taking of innocent human life by abortion,” the letter states.
“We are nonsectarian pro-life organizations and religious ministries that make the nation’s capital our home. Despite the enactment of this unjust law we will continue to hire employees who share our commitment to the dignity of every member of the human family,” it continues, and concludes, “We will vigorously resist any effort under RHNDA to violate our constitutionally protected fundamental rights.”
The letter is signed by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), Americans United for Life, Concerned Women for America and Susan B. Anthony’s List.
As Raw Story notes, the letter was published just days after Congress voted to overturn RHNDA. That vote was largely a stunt: RHNDA would go into effect in D.C. in a few days anyway, and President Obama announced that he wouldn’t sign the measure if it reached his desk. A similar bill proposed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) failed to even reach a vote.
But the issue may not be over. Congress is set to vote soon on D.C.’s annual budget—and there’s speculation that RHNDA opponents may refuse to pass it unless it contains a provision overturning the controversial bill.
It’s a fight the ADF, the ERLC and friends seem to have anticipated. And that doesn’t bode well for D.C. residents: If Congress holds the budget hostage over RHNDA, essential city services will suffer.
That doesn’t appear to bother these far-right groups and their allies in Congress. But it should bother anyone who cares about the democratic process, or, for that matter, religious freedom. The rights of groups like the ADF aren’t actually threatened by laws like RHNDA.
Here’s another fact the letter neglected to mention: D.C.’s Human Rights Act makes it clear that it’s already legal for D.C.-based religious groups to hire and fire based on their beliefs. The ELRC, for example, can already practice hiring discrimination on the basis of religious. What it cannot do is fire an employee for personal decisions made outside of the workplace.
It’s an act of incredible hubris to leave out this important detail—and to then claim that religious freedom doesn’t really exist unless it’s defined as the right to discriminate.
It’s noteworthy that the coalition’s letter put phrases like “reproductive health” and “decisions” in scare quotes. It lets readers know that they don’t consider reproductive health to be a real issue, and that they don’t think the health-care choices their employees make are valid.
That’s exactly why the D.C. City Council passed RHNDA. Employers don’t have a religious freedom right to determine the validity of their staff’s personal health-care choices. The ADF and its allies aren’t demanding “freedom;” they’re demanding special privileges, and they don’t seem to care that those special privileges may negatively affect their employees.
Breaking this law doesn’t make you a civil rights hero. It makes you a bully. It’s time for anti-abortion organizations to stop threatening the welfare of their employees—and D.C. voters—because they didn’t get their way.