News Human Rights

West Virginia Legislator Attempts to Add Anti-Choice Amendments to Pregnancy Discrimination Bill

Emily Crockett

Del. Michael Folk introduced two amendments to the bill, one that would have expanded the definition of "person" to include a fetus, and another that would have included "the health of the unborn child" in the bill's protections of pregnant women. The amendments were defeated before the bill passed the state house.

The West Virginia House of Delegates passed legislation last week requiring reasonable accommodations for pregnant women at work, but not before one delegate attempted to add anti-choice language as an amendment to the bill.

Del. Michael Folk (R-Berkeley) introduced two amendments to the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act, one that would have expanded the definition of “person” to include a fetus, and another that would have included “the health of the unborn child” in the bill’s protections of pregnant women.

The house rejected both amendments before passing the bill on Wednesday. The bill’s sponsor, Del. Tim Manchin (D-Marion), said that the bill already provided for the well-being of the fetus, and that the amendments could have caused confusion as to who could submit a claim on the fetus’ behalf.

Anti-choice legislators frequently use the amendment process to push restrictions on reproductive health. A Kentucky legislator recently added a 20-week abortion ban to a domestic violence bill, and North Carolina passed numerous abortion restrictions last year as amendments to a motorcycle safety bill.

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The Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act would require employers to provide pregnant women reasonable accommodations at work, such as extra restroom breaks or less heavy lifting. Similar measures have passed recently in New Jersey and New York City, and New York state is considering one as part of an omnibus Women’s Equality Act. According to a report from the National Partnership for Women and Families, four in ten pregnant women surveyed said they never asked for the accommodations they needed, often fearing reprisal, and one in four experienced discrimination after coming back to work.

The bill, without the anti-choice amendments, now moves to the state senate.

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