I can’t tell you how happy I am that Stand Firm is back in business. Partly it’s because we have a great team of writers and thinkers here, and interacting with them is a joy. Partly, it’s because as Gandalf declared, “There are many powers in the world, for good or for evil.” Those that are good need to be encouraged, and I will do that. Those that are evil, need to be named, shamed, denounced, and opposed (does that cover it?). I’ll be doing that as well.
Today’s smiting is directed at the state legislature and governor of New York State. The former has passed and the latter has signed one of the most blatantly dictatorial pieces of legislation It stems, as does so much of the authoritarian impulse in the American left, in the need to protect the right to kill one’s own children from any conceivable impingement.
Senate Bill 660 is an amendment of state labor law that adds a section to the law. It begins this way: “§203-e. Prohibition of discrimination based on an employee’s or a dependent’s reproductive health decision making.”
Two problems immediately jump out. One is the use of the word “discrimination,” the bête noire of the left. That is meant to send a signal that “this is BAD.” Discrimination is what happens when white people mistreat black people, or men mistreat women. Discrimination is not, however, what happens when one distinguishes between right belief and wrong belief, or between right conduct and wrong conduct. Using the word “discrimination” here is essentially saying, “no one is allowed to make a moral judgment about anything that anyone believes or does that involves human reproduction” (i.e., abortion, contraception, in vitro fertilization, etc.).
The second and bigger problem is the use of the deliberately vague expression “reproductive health decision making.” The phrase “reproductive health,” as everyone knows, is wink-wink-nudge-nudge talk for abortion, but can in a legal sense be understood much more broadly. Appending to it the phrase “decision making,” however, takes it out of the realm of action and into the realm of thought and speech. Before one gets an abortion, one has to decide to do so, and that’s a process that involves information-gathering, weighing options, considering alternatives, seeking advice, etc. In fact, it presumably wouldn’t have to involve any action at all, but just speech (“I’m thinking about helping my daughter get an abortion, because abortion is a wonderful blessing according to Episcopal priest Katharine Ragsdale”). And according to this law, there’s nothing an employer can do about it.
That’s because “An employer shall not: (a) discriminate nor take any retaliatory personnel action against an employee with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of or on the basis of the employee’s or dependent’s reproductive health decision making, including, but not limited to, a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service; or (b) require an employee to sign a waiver or other document which purports to deny an employee the right to make their own reproductive health care decisions, including use of a particular drug, device, or medical service.”
Translation: no employer may do anything that adversely affects an employee’s status for any speech, thought, or behavior connected with abortion.
There’s a lot more that’s objectionable about this law, but one other thing stands out like a nun in a red light district: there is no exemption whatsoever for any employer of any kind. Churches, crisis pregnancy centers, religious schools, religiously-affiliated hospitals and colleges, pro-life advocacy non-profits: any organization or institution you can think of that might have an explicitly pro-life or traditional religious position on any subject related to human reproduction is now prohibited in the state of New York from requiring their employees to abide by those beliefs.
This is the totalitarian impulse at work. The political branches of the state government of New York have in essence said, “screw the First Amendment–you will be made to conform to Molechian orthodoxy regarding the sacrifice of unborn children. Don’t like it? Don’t employ anyone.” As Denise Harle wrote in the New York Post, “New York could have provided an exemption for religious organizations, but elected officials intentionally chose not to, even though they knew the law shouldn’t be applied to such organizations under US Supreme Court precedent or under the state’s own human-rights law. That’s because the law isn’t about fighting real employment discrimination — it’s about religious targeting.”
There is nothing more abhorrent to leftists and progressive government bureaucrats than religious freedom, and thing more sacred to them than abortion. Those two preferences have found common cause in this legislation. I predict that the U.S. Supreme Court will give this the trash-canning it deserves, given its recent rulings in cases such as NIFLA v. Becerra and Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. God help the people of New York–and the other states that will inevitably follow in its train–if it does not.