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Michigan poised to ban employers from firing workers for having abortions

pro abortion rights protest in lansing
Michigan is poised to make it illegal for employers to fire workers for getting an abortion. (Bridge photo by Dale Young)
  • Michigan Democrats add abortion to protected class under state’s civil rights act
  • Employers would be prohibited from firing, demoting or discriminating against employees for having abortions
  • Republicans deem the bill a violation of religious freedom and argue it could force employers to ‘subsidize’ abortions

LANSING — Michigan employers would be prohibited from discriminating against those who receive an abortion under a bill approved by the Michigan House 56-52 along party lines on Wednesday.

The bill would add employment protections for abortion recipients to the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The Senate has already approved a version of the bill but must sign onto changes before it heads to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.


The legislation comes almost six months after Michigan voters approved Proposal 3, which enshrined abortion rights into the state constitution. 


To make sure state law conforms with the new constitutional amendment, the Democrats-led state Legislature in March repealed a 1931 abortion ban, which made performing the procedure a felony.

Supporters of the measure approved Wednesday said the bill is another step in ensuring state law complies with the state Constitution. Under Proposal 3, the state must not “discriminate in the protection or enforcement of this fundamental right” or “penalize, prosecute, or otherwise take adverse action” based on whether someone has had an abortion.

“This bill will make sure that women cannot be fired or retaliated against based on their reproductive health decisions,” said Rep. Carrie Rheingans, D-Ann arbor. “Those decisions should never make a woman afraid that she is getting forced out of her job.”

Rep. Felicia Brabec, D-Ann Arbor, said on the floor Tuesday the bill would better protect employees from discrimination and help employers retain talent.

“We need to stay economically competitive and keep workers in Michigan,” Brabec said. “Allowing pregnancy discrimination to continue only drives workers away to states with more secure freedoms.”

It’s unclear how many Michigan employees — if any — were discriminated against for having an abortion. 

Anti-abortion activists and Republicans said the bill would go beyond the scope of protections Proposal 3 offered and force some private employers to act against their religious beliefs. 

“Many Christians and adherents to other religions would be forced to choose between shutting down their businesses and shutting down their beliefs,” said Rep. Josh Schriver, R-Oxford.

Several Republicans wanted to add religious exemptions to the bill Wednesday, but their proposals were not adopted.


Republicans are also concerned the bill could force business owners to provide health insurance coverage for abortion, said House Republican Caucus spokesperson Jerry Ward. 

Rep. Rachelle Smit, R-Shelbyville, argued Tuesday the bill would force “businesses to subsidize in providing abortion drugs” to employees.

House Democrats spokesperson Amber McCann told Bridge the measure approved Wednesday would not mandate insurance coverage for abortion.

Under a 2013 state law, health insurance policies for employees only cover abortions when the patient’s life is in danger, unless employees pay more to receive elective abortion coverage. Democrats have not introduced bills to repeal the decade-old law.

The Wednesday changes represent the second time this year Democrats have expanded protections under the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. In March, state lawmakers added LGBTQ protections to the state law after similar bills stalled in the Legislature for decades. 

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