Republicans led the U.S. House of Representatives in a late Thursday vote to repeal a District of Columbia law that protects employees from retaliation over their reproductive health-care choices.
The 223-192 vote occurred on an amendment to the fiscal year 2017 financial services appropriations bill, which subsequently passed the House that night. The amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL), claimed that the amendment to repeal the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA) would protect employers’ religious liberty.
Only two Democrats, Reps. Dan Lipinski (IL) and Collin Peterson (MN), voted in favor of the amendment.
RHNDA amends the District’s Human Rights Act, which deals with employment discrimination. It adds that an employer cannot discriminate in “compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” because of an employee’s or a dependent’s “reproductive health decision making, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service.” In other words, the law protects employees from being fired for their choices to use birth control, have a baby, or have an abortion.
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NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue condemned the vote.
“A woman should never fear being fired for her decision about whether, when, and with whom to grow her family. That decision should be a woman’s alone and not decided for her by an employer or by Congress,” Hogue said in a statement. “Every single person who voted for this should be ashamed, regardless of which side of the aisle you sit on.”
Two dozen Republicans voted against repeal, but they are the outliers in a party that has consistently attacked the law since the Washington, D.C., council unanimously enacted it at the end of 2014. Republicans last year sought to overturn RHNDA through a resolution of disapproval they pushed through the House and another attempt through the budget process.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), a non-voting congressional delegate, vowed to again block Republicans at every turn.
“Last year, I was able to remove the harmful rider that blocked RHNDA after it was included in the House bill, and I will be waging another vigorous fight this year,” she said in a statement.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, released a separate statement expressing Democrats’ opposition to the amendment.
“Under the guise of ‘religious liberty,’ this amendment is an unprecedented intrusion into D.C. residents’ personal health choices, and cannot be a part of any final [a]ppropriations law,” she said.