WASHINGTON (CNS) — As legislators in multiple states push hard to expand access to abortion, claiming that doing so will give women the control they need over their lives, some Kentucky lawmakers are taking a different tack.
News website Insider Louisville reported Feb. 18 that a state Senate bill that consists of multiple protections for pregnant women in the workplace is progressing steadily through the Kentucky Senate’s committees, having cleared the Judiciary Committee Feb. 14 and now bound for the Rules Committee.
Among supporters of the measure, known as S.B. 18, are the Catholic bishops of Kentucky, who agree the policy solidifies women’s rights in Kentucky’s economy without treading on the rights of unborn children.
The legislation is sponsored by Republican Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr alongside eight other senators, as well as being endorsed by Greater Louisville Inc., the Louisville area’s chamber of commerce.
The bill’s provisions expand “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant women in the workplace to include “frequent or longer breaks, time off to recover from childbirth, acquisition or modification of equipment” and “less strenuous or less hazardous work,” according to an impact statement made by the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission.
It also would make “the need to express breast milk for a nursing child” among the “related medical conditions” deserving of protection by employers.
According to Insider Louisville, Kerr underscored to the Judiciary Committee the bill will clarify what employers must afford their pregnant employees as well as ensure that women can remain viable in the workforce without being subjected to hostile work conditions or feeling they have to consider abortion.
During the hearing she said the policy is “important for our economy … and it’s important for our society as well,” while adding that it “can provide critical support to women who may feel that abortion is their only option.”
Jason Hall, executive director of Catholic Conference of Kentucky, told Catholic News Service in a phone interview that Kentucky’s bishops have “endorsed (the bill) as a conference” and see it as beneficial from a number of angles.
“We see the bill as a pro-worker bill but also a pro-family and pro-life bill,” Hall said.
While Hall acknowledged that he didn’t know if the new provisions would convince a woman who was “dead set” on having an abortion against doing so, he said the bill would help pregnant women at work who are facing tough decisions, declaring that it was the intention of the bishops to “reduce abortions in any way (they) can.”
“The research shows that abortion is seriously considered as an option when people have no other options” reported Hall, adding that “economic anxiety is a major factor surrounding decisions of abortion.”
Hall described the bishops’ advocacy for the bill as part of a much wider effort to guide Kentucky toward a pro-life environment that protects both the unborn and women.
The Catholic Conference of Kentucky runs “a number of ministries for women in difficult pregnancies” as well as diverting funds that were once spent on a pregnancy hotline on more “direct services to (pregnant) women,” according to Hall.
The Kentucky bishops also have recently backed a House bill that will greatly restrict abortion in the event Roe v. Wade is overturned. Hall told CNS he considered H.B. 148 the “answer” to New York’s Reproductive Health Act, which protects abortion if the landmark case is struck down.
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