The District’s landmark 2014 law that says employers cannot discriminate against workers based on their reproductive health decisions is being targeted for the third straight year by a House Republican.
Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) late Thursday filed an amendment to a House appropriations bill to block the District from using funds to carry out the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act.
That law broadened the definition of discrimination in the District to include an employee’s reproductive health decisions. Under the law, employers cannot discriminate against employees who seek contraception or family planning services. Employers also cannot act against an employee when they know she has used medical treatments to initiate or terminate a pregnancy.
Palmer’s amendment must pass the House and Senate and be signed by President Trump before it can take effect.
The measure is one of several aiming to quash city laws, including an assisted-suicide measure, known as Death with Dignity, which Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) signed into law in December 2016.
Republican lawmakers also previously inserted amendments into the spending bill to prevent the city from using money without federal permission, from using local tax dollars to subsidize abortion for low-income women, and from spending money to regulate the sale of marijuana.
“Mayor Bower continues to oppose any anti-D.C. riders,” said Tomás Talamante, who oversees congressional appropriations in the D.C. office of federal and regional affairs. “These riders do nothing to help us improve our neighborhoods or strengthen our schools.”
Instead of seeking “to overturn will of D.C. voters,” Congress should focus on more pressing issues, such as infrastructure and health care, he said.
While the GOP-controlled House has often exerted its congressional authority over the District in recent years, city officials rely on more moderate lawmakers in the Senate to refrain from meddling in District affairs.
A spokeswoman for Palmer referred questions about the amendment to a floor speech he made last year on the issue.
“Without my amendment some employers in the District of Columbia would not only be prohibited from exercising their religion but would be forced to embrace the beliefs of the 13 members of the D.C. Council,” he said at the time.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s nonvoting representative, said she will oppose Palmer’s amendment and four others in the appropriations bill.
“Ignoring the bedrock Republican principle of local control of local affairs, Representative Palmer is doing the bidding of far-right interest groups to try to block a local D.C. anti-discrimination law, while ignoring work that needs to be done for his own constituents,” Norton said in a statement.
The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act bans employers from taking action against workers based on their decision to use birth control or seek an abortion.
“No employer has the right to know, much less interfere, with the most private of health decisions of their employees,” Norton said.
Some conservatives and Catholic groups have interpreted the city law to mean that employers in the District, including churches and antiabortion groups such as March for Life, could be forced to provide coverage for contraception and abortions.
The D.C. Council passed a temporary fix to make it clear that religious organizations would not be responsible for such medical care.
But in 2015, the House voted along party lines to strike down the law. The Senate did not take up the measure.
The following year, Palmer sought to block funding for its implementation. That measure bill passed the House but again failed to reach the Senate floor.
Democrats have compared efforts to gut the nondiscrimination law to the 2014 decision in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, which allows some companies to refrain from offering contraception through employee health plans.