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Federal Judge Dismisses 17 State Challenge To Abortion Accommodations

Republican attorneys general from 17 states, led by Arkansas and Tennessee, sued the EEOC over its rules implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The Act requires qualifying employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant or postpartum employees. The EEOC stated the abortion regulations align with “decades of legal precedent establishing that pregnancy anti-discrimination laws include abortion” (AP). However, the 17 states disagree with that portion of the new rules and are challenging time-off accommodations for workers to have an abortion and recover from that procedure. The attorneys general argued that the regulations went beyond the 2022 PWFA passed with bipartisan support. The rules go into effect in late June.

The Arkansas Attorney General expressed disappointment with the ruling and said he was considering other legal options. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia make up the other states fighting the regulations. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other religious groups are also challenging the abortion provision in federal court.

The ACLU and 20 other labor and women's advocacy groups, including the group that fought for the PWFA before Congress, filed briefs to support the rule. They called the judge's decision "a victory for millions of pregnant and postpartum workers" because the regulations will go into effect. They say women have contacted them to complain that their employers continue to deny pregnancy accommodations that would violate the PWFA. The judge asserted, "The States' fear of overreach by one branch of the federal government cannot be cured with the overreach by another." With strict abortion restrictions in many states, many women must travel far to get medical care, requiring time off work to get it.