Pregnancy center can sue New York over state law that could require it to hire pro-choice staffers: court

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A federal appeals court reversed a lower court ruling earlier this week that had dismissed a challenge to a New York state labor law prohibiting pro-life pregnancy centers from discriminating against employees because of their abortion views.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Monday that the lower court was wrong to dismiss the claim that the 2019 so-called “Boss Bill” unconstitutionally forced nonprofit Evergreen Association Inc. to employ people who have had abortions, according to a statement from the organization’s legal counsel at the Thomas More Society.

The bill, which passed with bipartisan support, made women who have had abortions a protected class under New York’s employment nondiscrimination laws, which Evergreen Association argued was a violation of its First Amendment right to expressive association, according to its lawyer.

Evergreen, an organization that runs maternal health and pregnancy centers named Expectant Mother Care and EMC FrontLine Pregnancy in New York City and its suburbs, employs exclusively pro-life staff.

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Evergreen Association Inc. argued in a lawsuit that a New York state labor law prohibiting discrimination against employees because of their abortion views violated the Constitution.

Evergreen Association Inc. argued in a lawsuit that a New York state labor law prohibiting discrimination against employees because of their abortion views violated the Constitution. (iStock)

In 2020, the organization’s founder and CEO, Christopher Slattery, filed a lawsuit against New York to challenge the constitutionality of the “Boss Bill,” arguing that being compelled to hire employees who have undergone abortions would obstruct Evergreen’s goal of encouraging expectant mothers to choose life for their unborn children.

“A counselor who espouses pro-life values, but did not regret having had an abortion or would opt to have an abortion in the future would undercut Evergreen’s message,” Thomas More Society special counsel Timothy Belz said in a statement provided to Fox News Digital. “Evergreen’s constitutional right to expressive association allows it to determine that its pro-life views can be conveyed only by those who completely support and affirm the organization’s mission, in both word and deed.”

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Evergreen Association Inc., which runs pregnancy centers in New York City and its suburbs, argued that a New York state labor law violated its First Amendment rights.

Evergreen Association Inc., which runs pregnancy centers in New York City and its suburbs, argued that a New York state labor law violated its First Amendment rights. (Fox News Photo / Joshua Comins / File)

Belz said no organization should be forced to hire employees whose beliefs and actions do not align with its core values.

“That would be a contradiction and expose the organization to accusations of hypocrisy,” he said. “That is true across the board for all types of groups. For example, a parochial school should not be forced to employ an atheist as a teacher, and an animal shelter should not have to hire an adoption facilitator who hates dogs.”

“We trust the Second Circuit’s ruling will discourage any state legislature from enacting legislation that would violate an organization’s First Amendment rights, including the right to work with those who share their values,” Belz added.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned a lower court ruling dismissing a claim against a New York state law.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned a lower court ruling dismissing a claim against a New York state law. (Haizhan Zheng via Getty Images / File)

Slattery said in a statement that he was “thrilled that a Federal Court in New York affirmed what we knew from the beginning, the need to shield pregnancy resource centers from unconstitutional laws that try to thwart their mission.”

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The case is slated to head to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.

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