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17 states challenge federal rules entitling workers to accommodations for abortion

An exam room is seen inside Planned Parenthood in March 2023. Republican attorneys general from 17 states filed a lawsuit on Thursday, challenging new federal rules entitling workers to time off and other accommodations for abortions, calling the rules an illegal interpretation of a 2022 federal law.
Jeff Roberson
/
AP
An exam room is seen inside Planned Parenthood in March 2023. Republican attorneys general from 17 states filed a lawsuit on Thursday, challenging new federal rules entitling workers to time off and other accommodations for abortions, calling the rules an illegal interpretation of a 2022 federal law.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Republican attorneys general from 17 states filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging new federal rules entitling workers to time off and other accommodations for abortions, calling the rules an illegal interpretation of a 2022 federal law.

The lawsuit led by Tennessee and Arkansas comes since finalized federal regulations were published on Monday to provide guidance for employers and workers on how to implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The language means workers can ask for time off to obtain an abortion and recover from the procedure.

The rules, which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission adopted on a 3-2 vote along party lines, will go into effect June 18. The lawsuit filed in federal court in Arkansas argues the regulations go beyond the scope of the 2022 law that passed with bipartisan support.

"This is yet another attempt by the Biden administration to force through administrative fiat what it cannot get passed through Congress," Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin said in a statement. "Under this radical interpretation of the PWFA, business owners will face federal lawsuits if they don't accommodate employees' abortions, even if those abortions are illegal under state law."

An EEOC spokesperson referred questions to the Justice Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Better Balance, one of the most vocal advocates for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, called the lawsuit a baseless attack on the law's protections.

"This lawsuit represents a bad faith effort to politicize what is a vital protection for the health and economic security of millions of families, and a continuation of the alarming attacks on women's health and reproductive choice," Dina Bakst, the group's co-president, said in a statement. "We are committed to fighting to defend workers' rights under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act."

The EEOC has said the new law does not obligate employers or employer-sponsored health plans to cover abortion-related costs, and that the type of accommodation that most likely will be sought under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act regarding an abortion is time off to attend a medical appointment or for recovery, which does not have to be paid.

The other states joining the lawsuit are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.

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The Associated Press