The new law is the latest effort by Democrats to codify abortion rights at the state level in Michigan. (Dale Young/Bridge Michigan)
  • Whitmer signs legislation making abortion a protected class in civil rights law
  • The law bans employers from firing, demoting or discriminating against an employee for having an abortion
  • Opponents view the bill as a violation of religious freedom

Michigan residents can’t be fired or otherwise discriminated against by employers for getting an abortion under legislation signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Wednesday.

This story also appeared in Bridge Michigan

The new law adds employment protections for abortion recipients to the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. It removes a provision excluding “a nontherapeutic abortion not intended to save the life of the mother” from medical conditions protected from unequal treatment under the act and previously cleared both chambers of the Democratic-majority Legislature.

“No one in Michigan should face discrimination because they exercised their constitutional rights, including their right to reproductive freedom by having an abortion,” Whitmer said in a statement announcing the bill signing. 


The legislation comes almost six months after Michigan voters approved Proposal 3, which enshrined abortion rights into the state constitution, and amid other efforts by legislative Democrats to repeal abortion restrictions in state law. Democrats in March repealed a 1931 abortion ban, which made performing the procedure a felony.

Supporters of the measure say the bill is another step in ensuring state law complies with the state Constitution. Under Proposal 3, the state must not “discriminate in the protection or enforcement of this fundamental right” or “penalize, prosecute, or otherwise take adverse action” based on whether someone has had an abortion.

“Abortion is a constitutional right in Michigan and the freedom to fully control our bodies, lives, and futures is vital to all of us,” state Senator Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, said in a statement. “This legislation aligns with that right and ensures that employers cannot use their deeply held beliefs to discriminate against employees making personal healthcare decisions.”

Anti-abortion activists and Republicans who opposed the effort in the Legislature claim the law goes beyond the scope of protections Proposal 3 offered and would force some private employers to act against their religious beliefs. 

“Many Christians and adherents to other religions would be forced to choose between shutting down their businesses and shutting down their beliefs,” Rep. Josh Schriver, R-Oxford, said during a recent floor debate on the bill.

Whitmer’s signature marks the second time this year Democrats have expanded protections under the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. In March, state lawmakers added LGBTQ protections to the state law after similar bills stalled in the Legislature for decades.

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