Earlier this month, I joined a strong group of civil rights advocates on Capitol Hill to celebrate the introduction of the Do No Harm Act of 2016 by two champions of women’s health, U.S. Representatives Joe Kennedy (Mass.) and Bobby Scott (Va.).
This bill comes at a critical time. Increasingly, religion is being used to justify discrimination against women and families – in health care settings, in the workplace and in our communities. The Do No Harm Act will make clear that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s (RFRA) protections of the exercise of religion cannot be used to deny women access to reproductive health care or other services, or to undermine civil rights protections.
At the National Partnership, our vision is a society that is free, fair and just – where nobody experiences discrimination and no one has to go without quality health care and real economic security. More and more, that vision is being undermined by those who claim to be protecting religious freedom but are, in fact, trying to justify discrimination. We see it when a teacher is fired for using IVF to start a family. We see it when pharmacy owners argue they can refuse to dispense needed medications. We see it when employers try every trick in the book to deny women the contraceptive coverage they’re entitled to under the law – coverage that enables us to protect our health, advance our careers, get an education and plan our lives.
We all have the right to our religious beliefs, but we also have the right to be treated fairly in the workplace; to be able to access the health care we need without shame, stigma or unnecessary barriers; to live our lives with dignity. The Do No Harm Act would help prevent RFRA from continuing to be misused to harm others and roll back our hard-fought gains. We commend Representatives Kennedy and Scott for championing this legislation and hope Congress will act quickly to protect everyone’s right to work and live free from discrimination.