In Relation to Reproductive Health Care Decisions

Published on January 14th, 2019

Memorandum of Opposition

Re:  A.584 Jaffee / S.660 Metzger
In relation to reproductive health care decisions

The above-referenced legislation aims to outlaw employment discrimination based on an employee or dependent’s reproductive health decision making.  For the reasons outlined below, the New York State Catholic Conference opposes this bill.

First, we would note that the term “reproductive health decision making” is not defined within the legislation. It is simply referred to as “…including but not limited to, the decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service…”As such, the term is ambiguous, unlimited, and potentially very expansive, and could include not only contraception and abortion, but also in vitro fertilization, human cloning, sex reassignment surgery, surrogacy and other procedures which are directly contrary to the beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church.

To require Catholic Church employers to hire or retain staff who have undergone such procedures or who openly express support for them would substantially impair our ability to hire to mission and enforce our faith-based codes of conduct. In this regard, the legislation is in direct conflict with current protections in New York law (e.g., Executive Law Section 296[11]) which permit religious employers to take employment-related actions based on the religious principles upon which they are established or maintained.

In a similar way, because of its breadth, the legislation will have a direct impact on health insurance coverage by religious organizations. Our current law provides some limited and inadequate protections, but there are considerable areas of ambiguity. There is also ongoing litigation challenging New York State regulations mandating abortion insurance coverage (see Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany et al vs. NYS Department of Financial Services, NYS Supreme Court, Index No. 7536-17.) As a result, Catholic and other religious employers are not sufficiently shielded from being required to cover morally objectionable items in health insurance plans.

We also believe this legislation poses a serious threat to the right to free speech and free exercise of religion. It is a fundamental part of our faith and religious mission to present Catholic beliefs about human life and sexuality, both in our institutions and to the general public.

In the past, our Conference has supported legislation which targets clearly-defined discriminatory behavior, for example, disparate treatment in the workplace based on pregnancy. But because we consider the professional conduct of Catholic agency and institutional staff, as well as our internal policies, to be expressions of our religious mission, we must oppose A.584/S.660 as currently drafted.