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California lawmakers back bill to protect workers' reproductive health choices over opposition from religious groups

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Employees would not risk losing their jobs for reproductive health choices, including having an abortion, in-vitro fertilization or a child out of wedlock, under a bill that passed the Legislature on Thursday.

The measure, by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), takes aim at employer codes of conduct, particularly at religious institutions, that could cost workers their jobs for making such health decisions.

"This is not a partisan bill," Gonzalez Fletcher said on the Assembly floor. "It’s an issue of basic health, privacy and worker rights."

The measure prompted a thorny debate on how to balance worker privacy with freedom for religious institutions to ensure their workers align with their values.

The California Catholic Conference, in a letter to lawmakers, said the bill marked "an unmistakable effort to target religious organization employers in this state."

"The adoption of standards of conduct that are often shaped by the employer's 1st Amendment rights of religious freedom and association, and that protect the employer's ability to infuse those policies with the tenets of its particular faith, has always been permitted and respected," the letter said.

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