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Missouri Advances Bill Allowing Employers to Fire Women for Using Birth Control

thoughtcatalog.com / Flickr (CC-BY)

thoughtcatalog.com / Flickr (CC-BY)

On Tuesday, the Missouri House of Representatives voted in favor of Senate Bill 5, which would modify statewide provisions relating to abortion. Changes would affect local abortion policies, tissue reports, employee disclosure policies and abortion facility inspections.

Pitched as an expansion of religious freedom for employers and landlords, the bill would overturn a St. Louis city ordinance that prevented discrimination against women who have had abortions. The new law would allow employers to fire female employees for having had abortions or using birth control. It would extend the privilege of discrimination to landlords, who could evict women for getting an abortion, getting pregnant out of wedlock or using birth control.

Newsweek’s Mirren Gidda elaborates:

Given the Senate’s vote on June 14, it it seen as likely to approve the updated version of SB 5. This would mean that landlords could refuse to offer housing to women based on their reproductive health choices, while employers could fire female staff members who were using birth control, or refuse to hire them. And while of course this isn’t information most landlords or employers have access to, under SB 5 they could ask women what forms of reproductive health care they are using.

It also imposes more severe restrictions on abortion providers — another example of the “targeted regulation of abortion providers” (TRAP) laws that several states are attempting to enforce in order to make performing and undergoing abortions more prohibitive. Legislative Tracker offers more details about the logistical hurdles SB 5 would introduce:

The bill would require that all fetal organs and tissue removed at the time of an abortion be sent to a pathologist within five days for gross and histopathological examination. The pathologist would need to provide a copy of the tissue report to the abortion facility or hospital within 72 hours. If the pathological examination does not reveal the presence of a completed abortion, the pathologist must notify the abortion facility within 24 hours.

The department would need to reconcile each notice of abortion with its corresponding fetal organs and tissue report.

If the department does not receive either a notice or a report, the department would be required to conduct an investigation and, if a deficiency is discovered, must perform an unscheduled inspection of the facility to ensure such deficiency is remedied. If the deficiency is not remedied, the department must suspend the abortion facility’s or hospital’s license for at least one year, subject to applicable licensure procedures.

While supporters of TRAP laws often claim they are concerned for women’s health, the ACLU says TRAP laws typically are “medically unnecessary, politically motivated” regulations with “the end goal of making abortion access not just difficult, but impossible.”

Restrictions on abortion are seen fairly often in conservative state legislatures, but laws restricting birth control use are rarer and have significant implications: SB 5 could allow landlords and employers to ask a woman about her reproductive history—and she could be turned away if she doesn’t give the desired answers.

The bill next goes back to the Missouri Senate. If that body passes it, the bill will go to Gov. Eric Greitens, who—given his history of complaining about “radical politicians” making “St. Louis an abortion sanctuary city” — is likely to sign the legislation without hesitation.

“This feels like a political stunt to many of us,” state Rep. Peter Merideth, a St. Louis Democrat, told a local radio station. “It’s being sold as an effort to show how pro-life the governor is.”

–Posted by Emily Wells

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