Court Rules New York Can’t Force Pregnancy Centers to Hire Pro-Abortion Employees

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Feb 28, 2023   |   11:04AM   |   Albany, New York

A New York pro-life organization won a victory in court Monday against a state law that basically forces employers to hire staff who oppose their life-saving work.

Newsday reports the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals panel said the pro-life Evergreen Association, which runs pregnancy resource centers in New York, has a legitimate freedom of association case against the 2019 law.

“[I]f the state could require an association that expressly opposes abortion to accept members who engage in the conduct the organization opposes, it would severely burden the organization’s right of expressive association,” Judge Steven Menashi wrote.

In 2019, New York lawmakers passed a series of pro-abortion bills, including the “Boss Bill” that makes “reproductive health” decisions a protected class in state employment nondiscrimination law. Employers who choose not to hire or keep a staffer who promotes killing unborn babies in abortions or aborts an unborn baby themselves could face large fines and other punishments.

Evergreen, which runs the Expectant Mother Care and EMC FrontLine Pregnancy Centers, and its president, Chris Slattery, sued the state in 2020, challenging the law as unconstitutional. According to Courthouse News, U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy Sr. dismissed the case in 2021, but Evergreen appealed.

This week, the appeals court agreed that the case has merit and sent it back to the federal court for further review.

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Slattery told LifeNews that he felt thrilled by the news, saying: “The Court of Appeals in this case effectively said that the law in NY State … denied our pro-life pregnancy organization our constitutional ability to insist on hiring and retaining only like minded pro-life employees. And they claimed the law severely impairs our ability to communicate our anti-abortion message.”

He expressed hope that their victory will help other pro-life, Catholic and Christian organizations in New York, too.

Attorney J. Matthew Belz, who represents Evergreen through the Thomas More Society, said he also is optimistic about the case.

“We are pleased that the panel recognized the need to protect mission-oriented organizations from intrusions by the state, and we look forward to cementing this victory at the district court level,” Belz said.

Expectant Mother Care and EMC FrontLine Pregnancy Centers have helped save approximately 43,000 unborn babies from abortion, according to the organization. They provide free counseling, practical resources, postpartum support and educational services and more to help mothers and babies.

“Everything Evergreen does — from counseling pregnant women, to providing women with nursing services, to speaking in defense of the unborn, to communicating expectations to its employees — aims at bringing about an abortion-free culture,” Belz wrote in the appeals brief. “Anything less would compromise Evergreen’s message by requiring it to employ as its representatives people who actively dissent from the worldview it exists to communicate to clients and the world.”