New York’s Efforts To Protect Reproductive Rights Meets Backlash

Supermajority Education Fund

November 19, 2019

Earlier this year, the New York Assembly passed three bills to protect New Yorkers’ reproductive rights. On January 22 — the 46th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), which legally assures abortion access to New Yorkers, even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, into law. Cuomo also signed the Comprehensive Contraceptive Care Act (CCCA), which requires health insurance companies to cover FDA-approved contraceptive drugs. 

On November 8, Cuomo officially signed the third of these bills: SB 660, also known as the Boss Bill. This bill, which prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees’ reproductive health choices based on their personal beliefs, soon met pushback. The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, CompassCare Pregnancy Services, and the First Bible Baptist Church in Rochester filed a lawsuit on November 14 against the state of New York, Cuomo, and New York Attorney General Letitia James. 

The complaint reads: “SB 660 is a transparent attempt to meddle in the affairs of religious and pro-life organizations … by forcing them to employ and associate with those persons who do not share or live by the organizations’ beliefs regarding abortion, contraception, and the impropriety of sexual relations outside the context of a marriage between a man and a woman.”

The same complaint also claims that SB 660 is “a remedy for a non-existent problem,” but the issue of contraceptive freedom has been brought before the courts. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that employers do not have to cover contraception for their employees if their religious beliefs conflict. 

Sen. Liz Krueger, who was among the senators to introduce the Boss Bill to the Senate, has been outspoken in support of it. In an email to Supermajority News, she reiterated why the Senate has championed legislation that protects employees, no matter their employers’ religious beliefs. 

“Fundamentally, this is a question about workers’ rights in the public sphere,” she said. “Anyone is free to adhere to any religious belief in the privacy of their home or their place of worship; but when you start hiring and firing employees, or offering or withholding insurance coverage to those employees, you have to respect the rights of those employees. No employer, regardless of their private beliefs, should be able to impose their morality on the most intimate aspects of their employees’ private lives.”

New York Sen. Jen Metzger, who joined Krueger in introducing the bill, told Supermajority News that the Boss Bill is not a partisan issue and protects employees regardless of their beliefs because “New Yorkers know that no one should have to fear that they will lose their job or be demoted because of their own, private reproductive health decisions. Choosing if and when to have children, and what prescription drugs to take or medical services to access, are decisions for individuals and their families and not their employers.”