Lawmakers approve bill to support pregnant, nursing workers

By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor

During the 2019 legislative session, Kentucky lawmakers capped their approval of multiple restrictions on abortion by enacting protections for pregnant and nursing workers.

The Kentucky Pregnant Workers’ Act, Senate Bill 18, was approved by the House March 28 in a 90-5 vote.

“I think it’s a great complement to all the work that’s been done the last three sessions on life,” said Jason Hall, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky. The conference represents the state’s bishops on matters of public policy and supported the measure.

“I really do think this is a way to say, ‘We’re going to pass bills that provide legal protection for the unborn and we are going to support mothers in vulnerable situations.’ It’s a both and.”

Hall added that more can be done for women, but Senate Bill 18 is a “meaningful step.”

The bill still needs the governor’s signature to become law.

Hall noted that the business community supports the measure, for the most part, though there are some detractors.

In the Louisville area, the act has the support of Greater Louisville Inc., which “was extremely important,” said Hall.

GLI’s 2019 legislative priorities include a call for labor laws that support parents in the regional workforce.

“Kentucky labor laws need to be updated to provide employers with guidance on making reasonable accommodations for employees affected by pregnancy and childbirth. This would help to deter avoidable litigation and support parents’ participation in our regional workforce,” GLI’s agenda explains.

The session’s last day to pass legislation was March 28. That day, the House failed to pass the Infants Born Alive Act (Senate Bill 227). The measure, which provides legal protections for a child who survives a failed abortion, passed the Senate in February unanimously.

“I was shocked it was just never called up,” said Hall of the March 28 session.

“If done right, I think it would be a very positive thing,” said Hall. He speculated that the bill failed for technical reasons related to how the law would be interpreted or applied.

“I think there are some issues — making sure we’re not mandating treatment in a way we wouldn’t normally do” for a newborn, he said. He added that the bill aims to ensure a child who survives an abortion is treated as a child in any other circumstance.

While the conference encountered some disappointments this session, Hall said, “On balance, I think it was a pretty positive session.”

Another disappointment, he said, was the failure of scholarship tax credit legislation, which would help boost funding of tuition-granting organizations by offering tax credits to donors. The bill would help organizations like the Catholic Education Foundation provide tuition assistance for children who can’t afford Catholic school tuition.

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