Catholic bishop: Biden administration ‘subverted’ pro-family policy by mandating abortion leave

Archbishop Timothy Broglio Archbishop Timothy Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, speaks at the USCCB fall plenary assembly Nov. 14, 2023. | Credit: USCCB video

A law meant to offer accommodations for pregnant workers has been “twisted” to “undermine human dignity” thanks to a new regulation mandating paid abortion leave, according to the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Archbishop Timothy Broglio.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires employers to accommodate women for workplace limitations that arise from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, had the full support of the USCCB when lawmakers considered the bill in 2022. 

However, regulations issued by President Joe Biden’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) this year have interpreted the related medical conditions covered in the law to include abortion.

In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, Broglio denounced the EEOC for its new regulations. His op-ed comes less than one week after the USCCB filed a lawsuit that asks a court to strike down the abortion accommodation rule.

The archbishop argues that the regulation “distorts the law beyond recognition” and turns “the plain text of the law on its head to promote abortion.” He noted that the USCCB supported the law for its “protections for pregnant women” but that the agency “subverted the law’s noble goal by turning it into an abortion-accommodation mandate.”

“The bill is pro-woman, pro-family, and pro-worker,” Broglio said. “It is also bipartisan. The text requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations — such as paid time off or modified work schedules — for the various needs that arise during pregnancy and childbirth. It bars employers from denying employment opportunities to a pregnant employee because of these needs or from taking adverse action against her.”

However, Broglio said, the USCCB’s commitment “to promoting human dignity must include defending the unborn and supporting women in their pregnancies.” He argued that the rules to accommodate abortion mandated by the EEOC are “unjust and illegal.”

“In the EEOC’s telling, having an abortion is the equivalent of pregnancy or childbirth,” Broglio added. “Required employer accommodations would include offering paid leave to obtain an abortion, and employers who express pro-life perspectives could be subject to legal liability.”

Under these regulations, the archbishop warned that the anti-retaliation language would prevent pro-life employers, including religious employers, “from encouraging employees to choose life instead of abortion.” He argued that “religious employers cannot require their employees to be faithful advocates of the sanctity of life” under the rules.

“If the EEOC’s rule is allowed to stand, the USCCB and Catholic ministries nationwide will be penalized for doing what they have done for centuries: teaching and serving the infinite dignity of every person,” Broglio said. “We will not compromise that twofold mission of walking with women and honoring the unborn. We look forward to the courts’ vindicating our right to do so.”

Although the regulations allow religious employers to request exemptions on a case-by-case basis, the bishops’ lawsuit argues that this immediately subjects them to the accommodation mandate and does not guarantee that they will be awarded an exemption in a particular case.

The lawsuit against the EEOC — which was filed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty on behalf of the bishops, the Catholic University of America, and two Catholic dioceses — argues that the agency’s regulations go against the legislative intent and are contrary to the plain text of the law.

“Intentionally ending a pregnancy is opposed to both pregnancy and childbirth, and is not a related medical condition to either,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also points to comments from lawmakers, including Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr., who sponsored the bill, that state that accommodations for abortion are not meant to be covered under the legislation.

“Under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, the [EEOC] could not — could not — issue any regulation that requires abortion leave, nor does the act permit the EEOC to require employers to provide abortions in violation of state law,” Casey said on the Senate floor in December 2022.

The lawsuit asks the court to declare the regulations invalid for enforcement against any employers and to accommodate the religious freedom of employers.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.