Prior to building a brand on objectifying women as CEO of CKE Restaurants, Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder otherwise concerned himself with women’s bodies, as a leader in the movement to restrict women’s reproductive rights. In the 1980s, he crafted a radical state law in Missouri that bestowed legal personhood on embryos; he also argued that criminal trespass laws shouldn’t apply to abortion clinic protestors, because of their religious beliefs. But don’t take our word for it. Here is what Puzder had to say:
- “Mr. Puzder . . . says that he will do whatever he can to make abortion illegal.” Dallas Morning News (Jan. 14, 1996).
- “Puzder says the threats and killings [of abortion providers] . . . are inevitable, because abortion is the law of the land at a time when many Americans carry a visceral distaste for it. ‘The Supreme Court has lifted abortion from the political debate,’ he said. ‘Violence has always been politics by other means.’” Boston Herald (January 8, 1995).
- “Missouri took the first step in overturning Roe v. Wade. We would like to see Florida take the next.” Miami Herald (Sept. 27, 1989).
- Puzder supported a Missouri ban on abortion, and stated that the only possible exceptions would be “to save the life of the mother and, perhaps if forced on us, in rape and incest cases.” New York Times (July 9, 1989).
- “My goal was to switch the discussion from whether abortion was a privacy issue or a woman’s rights issue to whether it is the taking of another life.” St Louis Post-Dispatch (April 23, 1989).
- “I’m probably more a member of the religious right than I am anything else.” Upstart Business Journal (Jan. 3, 2008).
- “If you have a poor woman who can’t support another baby, and she goes to an abortion clinic, you don’t have a woman who’s exercising her constitutional right, you have a woman who has a problem.” Louis Post-Dispatch (Dec. 9, 2016).
Why does it matter if the Secretary of Labor wants to overturn Roe v. Wade? Because extreme positions against women’s reproductive rights threaten protections against workplace sex discrimination. The Department of Labor enforces protections against sex discrimination by federal contractors, who employ about one-fifth of the U.S. workforce. These include protections ensuring that an employer can’t discriminate against you because you have had an abortion or because you are using contraception such as an IUD—which some employers falsely claim causes abortion. Puzder’s support for extreme fetal personhood measures also suggests that he might support employer efforts to push pregnant workers off the job based on purported concerns for fetal safety—in violation of longstanding pregnancy discrimination precedent.
His arguments that criminal trespass laws shouldn’t apply to abortion protestors because they believe abortion is wrong also suggest that he might seek to allow employers to opt out of a wide variety of antidiscrimination protections or workplace standards based on employers’ religious or moral beliefs—even when that hurts employees.
More broadly, Puzder’s extreme opposition to reproductive rights is bad for women because it demonstrates a disdain for women’s decision making and autonomy. It betrays a profound lack of concern with the fact that a woman’s control over whether and when she has a child is fundamental to her economic stability, her ability to advance at work, her opportunities to succeed, and the health and well-being of her and her family. Puzder’s past as an anti-abortion crusader is one more aspect of his record that betrays a lack of respect for women, demonstrating that his confirmation as Secretary of Labor would be dangerous for working women.