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D.C. Acted Today to Protect Abortion Providers from Discrimination on the Job

Today, members of the D.C. Council introduced a bill that would provide much-needed protection against discrimination for health care professionals who provide or support abortion. The Abortion Provider Nondiscrimination Amendment Act would explicitly protect health care professionals from discrimination based on their participation in or support for abortion services. For example, it would:

  • protect health care professionals who provide referrals and information to patients about abortion;
  • protect clinicians who provide abortion as the standard of care for patients with pregnancy complications;
  • protect employees from being fired for working a second job at an abortion clinic;
  • make sure that hospitals don’t deny staff privileges just because the health care professional is an abortion provider; and
  • protect an employee’s ability to speak publicly about their support for abortion.

No one should face employer hostility or discrimination simply because they provide or support abortion. The District of Columbia is taking a stand for the thousands of people who work in the health care industry in the District by making it clear that discrimination will not be tolerated.

Health care professionals should not be fired or threatened just because they provide or support abortion

Health care professionals in D.C. and across the country are being fired or threatened when an employer finds out they treated a patient seeking an abortion, are involved in public advocacy around abortion, or simply previously engaged in abortion services or advocacy.  For example:

  • Diane Horvath-Cosper was prohibited by her D.C. hospital employer from speaking to the media and publishing articles about the importance of abortion access, simply because the topic of her advocacy was abortion.
  • During a job interview, a senior partner of a private ob/gyn practice said to the interviewee, “If I ever find out you did elective abortion any time in your professional life, you’ll never practice medicine in [this state] again. Do you understand that?”
  • A doctor worked for many years at a private family practice and provided abortions at a nearby clinic. But when a Catholic hospital system bought the practice she was told that she would have to stop providing abortions at the local clinic or else lose her job. “I quit rather than give up helping patients get the abortions they need, but other providers might not be able to make the same choice.”

Even those who have not faced outright discrimination are well aware of the discrimination their colleagues have faced when employers discover their participation in abortion. In some cases, health care professionals are so afraid of employer discrimination that that they feel that they have no choice but to stop providing abortions or stop engaging in public advocacy in support of abortion in order to maintain their careers.

A D.C. physician put the issue best: “I’ve worked incredibly hard to become a competent obstetrician-gynecologist; I shouldn’t have to worry that I’ll be denied job opportunities because of my commitment to providing full-scope women’s healthcare.”

When abortion providers are punished or silenced, patients lose critical providers and advocates

When hospitals and other health care employers prohibit or deter their employees from taking secondary employment as abortion providers or otherwise threaten or punish health care professionals who provide abortion, patients lose access to abortion. In fact, one study found that hostile work environments were a greater deterrent to obstetrician-gynecologists becoming abortion providers than the threat of clinic violence.

Health care professionals are also crucial patient advocates. In 2017, politicians have continued to push legislation at both the state and federal level intended to make abortion more difficult for patients to access. In this environment, abortion providers are some of the strongest advocates for opposing these laws and promoting policies that put patients’ needs first.

 Voters support proactive policies that protect abortion providers

Voters across the country agree that employers should not discriminate against health care professionals just because they provide or support abortion. A nationally representative survey conducted by NWLC in March 2017 found that a majority of voters favor policies that stop hospitals from firing, demoting, or otherwise retaliating against doctors or nurses because they treated a woman seeking an abortion or gave her information or referrals for abortion.

 This bill provides the protections that health care professionals need

Although federal law does provide some protection for those who provide or support abortion, the current administration has made clear that it will prioritize health care institutions that deny patients care and punish providers, rather than focusing on the needs of patients and their providers. Health care professionals who provide and support abortion need additional protections at the state and local level that will ensure they do not face discrimination.

Thank you Council Members Grosso, Allen, Evans, and Nadeau for standing up for health care providers and introducing the Abortion Provider Nondiscrimination Amendment Act!