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Michigan protects workers from retaliation for having an abortion

Gretchen Whitmer
Posted at 12:56 PM, May 18, 2023

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan companies will be prohibited from firing or otherwise retaliating against workers for receiving an abortion under a bill signed Wednesday by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that amends the state's civil rights law.

Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act had previously only protected individuals against employment discrimination if the abortion was to "save the life of the mother." Legislation signed Wednesday will extend those protections to anyone who terminates a pregnancy, regardless of reasoning.

"No one in Michigan should face discrimination because they exercised their constitutional rights, including their right to reproductive freedom by having an abortion," Whitmer said in a statement Wednesday.

The new law, which will go into effect next year, will ensure that workers cannot be treated differently for receiving an abortion, a provision that advocates say is important to ensure employers don't discriminate based on personal beliefs.

The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public services based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status. It was amended in March to protect LGTBQ communities as well.

Michigan has been one of the leading states in protecting abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.

In November, voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot proposal that enshrined abortion rights in the Michigan Constitution after a 1931 law was triggered by the fall of Roe that made it a four-year felony to assist in an abortion. The law, which was blocked in courts for months, was removed from the state's books last month by Democrats.

Michigan's move to specify civil rights protections for people who have obtained abortions appears to be a relatively uncommon move, even at a time when blue states are protecting abortion access.

A bill in New York would add "pregnancy outcome" to the list of classes protected under nondiscrimination law. A law signed this year in New Mexico bars discrimination by government agency against people who have had abortions.

The issue has come up in court before. In 2008, the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents employers for firing workers for obtaining abortions.