News & Politics

D.C. City Council Considers Bill Forcing Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers to Hire Abortionists

The Washington, D.C. City Council in 2014. Photo Credit: Ted Eytan, Creative Commons.

The Washington, D.C. City Council is considering a bill that would turn abortionists and those willing to perform abortions into a protected class in the medical field. This one-sided bill would prevent pro-life pregnancy centers from refusing to hire abortionists or anyone who supports abortion, but it would not require Planned Parenthood to hire pro-life workers.

Introduced by six of the thirteen members on the D.C. City Council, Bill 22-0571 needs only one more vote to pass the council.

Make no mistake, Bill 22-0571 is effectively a public endorsement for abortion, turning pro-life health care professionals in Washington, D.C. into second class citizens. More than that, it undermines the free speech and free association rights of health care employers and more specifically pro-life pregnancy centers.

The bill aims to “amend the Human Rights Act of 1977 to prohibit discrimination against health care professionals by a health care provider, based on the professional’s participation in, willingness to participate in, or support for abortion or sterilization procedures, or public statements related to abortion or sterilization procedures.”

As The Washington Examiner‘s Katie Glenn pointed out, this bill only protects those who support abortion, not those who oppose it. If this bill passes, pro-life nurses, doctors, and staff could still be fired by health care employers for refusing to take part in abortion, but pro-abortion nurses, doctors, and staff could not be fired for their willingness to abort human babies, or their history of doing so.

Furthermore, the bill defines a “health care provider” broadly enough to include pro-life pregnancy centers, many of which operate in the Washington, D.C. area. These organizations certainly fit the category of “any person, group of persons, institution … engaged in the provision of health care in any manner.”

While pro-life centers like the Northwest Center admit they are not medical clinics, they provide free pregnancy tests and other services that could qualify them as “health care providers” under this law. Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center hired a medical director in 2017 and intends to provide ultrasounds.

If this law passes, these and other pro-life organizations would not be allowed to refuse to hire abortionists.

The bill clearly forbids any health care employer from performing these actions: “Fail or refuse to hire, or discharge … or otherwise penalize, discipline, or take adverse action.”

Pro-life pregnancy centers exist to give pregnant women crucial aid and to enable them to keep their babies. It is fundamental to their mission that they do not provide abortion and that they oppose abortion in the cases where women in crisis are likely to consider killing their unborn babies.

Last month, the Supreme Court struck down a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to post information about abortion availability, effectively turning these organizations into “abortion referral agencies.” If pro-life centers have the right to refuse to advertise abortion, shouldn’t they have the right to refuse to hire abortionists?

No organization should be told it cannot hire in accordance with its mission. Forcing a pro-life group to hire someone who fundamentally disagrees with their mission violates the rights of free association and free speech. If a pro-life organization is legally required to hire an abortion activist, how can the organization faithfully carry out its mission?

As Katie Glenn noted, freedom of association was at the heart of the movements for women’s suffrage and other feminist causes that abortion activists love to champion. This freedom that allowed suffragists to advocate for women’s right to vote would be put at risk by Bill 22-0571.

Perversely, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), a pro-abortion organization, defended Bill 22-0571 in testimony before the D.C. City Council. The NWLC argued that the bill “does not require any health care provider to do anything, and it does not penalize individuals who object to providing care.”

The plain text of the bill — that no group of individuals that provides “health care in any manner” can “fail or refuse to hire” an abortionist — reveals NWLC’s declaration as a bald-face lie. The bill does indeed require health providers to hire abortionists and pro-abortion staff, making it illegal for them to fail to do so.

Most egregiously, the NWLC argued that Bill 22-0571 “does not restrict speech. It does not limit, punish, or compel speech.”

On the contrary, forcing pro-life centers to associate with and hire abortionists and pro-abortion activists does indeed undermine their free speech. If a pro-life organization declares that abortion is murder and then hires an abortionist, they would rightly be derided as hypocritical.

While the abortion activist group claimed that the bill “needs no exceptions” because D.C. law would already cover them, future judges and councils could easily apply this law with maximum animus against pro-life pregnancy centers. Many such centers are not explicitly religious, and they should not have to be religious in order to abide by their mission.

The Supreme Court recognized anti-religious bias in the case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and it is tragically likely that a similar bias against pro-life organizations would operate in D.C.’s courts and City Council. This one-sided law suggests as much.