Missouri Votes to Let Employers Fire People Who Use Birth Control

A new Missouri bill would target abortion providers and sanction employment and housing discrimination against people who use birth control or have an abortion. Blessed be the fruit.

Yesterday, the Missouri House voted to pass SB 5, a bill imposing several highly burdensome and even more unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers; for example, the bill would require abortion providers to send fetal tissue samples to a pathologist within five days. While supporters of targeted restrictions of abortion providers (aka TRAP laws) claim they’re supporting women’s health, regulations like these often serve no medical purpose whatsoever. In reality, anti-choice legislators use them as a pretext to impose costs and red tape on abortion clinics, forcing them to close.

But SB 5 has another insidious purpose: to overturn a St. Louis ordinance that bans employers and landlords from discriminating against people on the basis of their reproductive health decisions. In other words, if SB 5 is passed, you could be evicted in the state of Missouri for having an abortion, using birth control, or becoming pregnant while unmarried.

This extremely common-sense city ordinance, which St. Louis passed this spring, was apparently Too Far for Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, who took to the press to complain about “radical politicians” making “St. Louis an abortion sanctuary city.” Ah, yes, the radical idea that an adult woman should be able to plan when, and whether, to have kids without risking her job or home. Greitens called state legislators back to the Capitol this summer specifically to overturn the St. Louis law, and to respond to the fact that Missouri’s last attempt to shut down abortion clinics ended up getting shut down by a federal judge.

The result of that special session is SB 5, which the Missouri Senate passed last Wednesday after 10 hours of negotiations behind closed doors. The House passed an amended, even more anti-choice version late yesterday.

That’s right. Missouri lawmakers are going out of their way to say that if an employer has a problem with you taking the pill, he can fire you – and he’ll have a seal of approval from the state of Missouri.

SB 5 puts women across Missouri at risk of losing their jobs or their homes: according to the CDC, 99% of sexually-active, reproductive-age women have used contraception. And whether or not someone is part of that 99% is none of their boss’ goddamn business. The state is outrageously, invasively giving employers and landlords the power to police highly personal choices women make about their bodies and lives. Missouri is sending the message that a woman’s livelihood, independence, even her ability to provide for her kids is all less important than her boss’ personal need to impose his narrow beliefs on her.

Missouri legislators may not have gotten the memo, but the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act already prohibits employment discrimination against women because they’ve had or considered an abortion. But federal protections for people who use birth control are less clear – and as the Trump Administration rolls back civil rights enforcement across the board, it’s imperative we maintain protections at the state and local levels.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, SB 5 also limits regulation of so-called “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” (anti-choice “clinics” that feed pregnant people misinformation to trick them out of having abortions), gives Missouri’s virulently anti-choice Attorney General Josh Hawley power to prosecute potential violations of Missouri’s TRAP laws, and allow the state to harass abortion clinics with unannounced inspections. The House’s version of the bill is headed back to the Senate, with amendments making it even harsher – and if it passes there it’ll head straight to Governor Greitens’ desk.

Are you in Missouri? Find your state representatives and call them to say you oppose SB 5, restrictions on reproductive freedom, and discrimination based on reproductive health decisions.

Image via the Ohio Statehouse News Bureau.

Sejal Singh is a columnist at Feministing, where she writes about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice. Sejal is a Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for Know Your IX, a national campaign to end gender-based violence in schools, where she has led several state and federal campaigns for student survivors' civil rights. In the past, Sejal led LGBT rights campaigns for the Center for American Progress. Today, she is a student at Harvard Law School and a frequent speaker on LGBTQ rights and civil rights in schools.

Sejal Singh is a law student and columnist at Feministing, writing about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice.

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