A.566 Jaffee / S.3791: Krueger: In relation to reproductive health care decisions

Published on February 13th, 2017

Memorandum of Opposition

The above-referenced legislation aims to prevent employers – whether private, non-profit, for-profit or religious – from exercising their religious freedom in the businesses they operate. For the reasons outlined below, the New York State Catholic Conference opposes this bill.

The fundamental purpose of this legislation is to remove any possibility of an employer making employment-related decisions based upon their religious beliefs. In the area of “reproductive health decisions,” the bill could therefore have the effect of repealing current protections in New York law (e.g., Executive Law Section 296[11]) that permit religious employers to take employment-related actions based on the religious principles upon which they are established or maintained.

We believe this legislation represents an unconstitutional infringement on religious freedom. The legislation blatantly and unfairly targets only religious employers and private business owners with religious beliefs. The United States and New York State Constitutions protect the religious freedom of religious and other private employers, enabling them to believe as they choose and determine employee benefits based on those beliefs.

In addition, this legislation is unnecessary. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (enacted 1978) already forbids discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled that employers can’t exclude prescription contraceptives from their preventive health care coverage, nor can they discharge a female employee from her job because she uses contraceptives. (See July 14, 2014 EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues.)

The federal HIPPA law (enacted 1996) already provides sufficient shielding for patient privacy by prohibiting employers from accessing the personal information of employees. The state’s Women’s Health and Wellness Act (enacted 2002) requires health benefit plans to provide coverage for contraception and a wide range of preventive health care.

We strongly urge you to protect religious freedom by rejecting this harmful and unnecessary legislation.

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