Saturday, January 23, 2010

Roe v. Wade, Abortion, and Pennsylvania Employment Law

Yesterday marked the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It's more complicated than I think most people realize... there was a trimester framework since morphed into a viability and undue burden determination; and you have to mix together the "penumbras" of a couple of Constitutional amendments. At the end of the day, the long and short of it is that individuals have some right to an abortion.

What does this have to do with employment law? Here in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) provides very specific abortion-based protections for employees:
"It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice . . . . For any public or private agency . . . [to] impose any burdens in terms of conditions of employment upon, or otherwise discriminate against any applicant . . . or any physician, nurse, staff member, student or employe thereof, on account of the willingness or refusal . . . to perform or participate in, abortion or sterilization by reason of objection thereto on moral, religious or professional grounds, or because of any statement or other manifestation of attitude by such person with respect to abortion or sterilization."
43 P.S. § 955.2. The Act also covers med school and nursing school applicants and contains an exception for health care facilities or clinics, "operated exclusively for the performance of abortion or sterilization or directly related procedures."

Another shining example of the importance of knowing the coverage provided by state laws. There may be some abortion-related employment protection under federal law, specifically under Third Circuit precedent here in Pennsylvania... that's another topic for another day though.

Image: Justice Blackmun, Official Photo - Public domain as a work of the United States Federal Government.