Missouri Moves To Disqualify You For Jobs If You Take Birth Control

by Lani Seelinger
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If you want the guarantee that potential employers won't be able to act against you for your reproductive choices, then Missouri might not be the place for you. On Tuesday, the Missouri House voted to let employers discriminate against women based on their reproductive choices, including whether they use birth control or whether they've had an abortion.

But the bill that the house approved, SB 5, doesn't stop there. It also extends that same privilege of discrimination to landlords, who would be able to evict women for getting an abortion, using birth control, or getting pregnant out of wedlock. And it imposes more severe regulations on abortion providers.

These sections of the bill are meant to overturn a St. Louis ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on "reproductive heath decisions." The city passed that ordinance this spring, and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens then complained that "radical politicians" had made "St. Louis an abortion sanctuary city."

To Greitens, the regulation was preventing pro-life groups (including so-called pregnancy crisis centers, which counsel women against abortion but disguise themselves as health care centers) from hiring pro-life women. The people who run those pregnancy centers, Greitens said, were being discriminated against for their religious beliefs. He also said that the state needed more regulations on abortion clinics for safety reasons, though studies have shown that targeted restrictions of abortion laws (known as "TRAP laws") don't actually serve any medical purpose.

While the version of the bill that the Missouri House passed does have some very draconian restrictions on abortion, anti-abortion laws are nothing new. Laws that allow discrimination against women for using birth control, however, are not something that you see every day.

Could a landlord, for example, ask about female tenant's reproductive history? Could a potential employer ask a female interviewee about what kind of birth control she uses? SB 5 could allow it, and it could also allow the landlord or the employer to turn those women away if they didn't like the answers that they heard.

The bill's supporters paint it as an expansion of religious freedom for the employers and landlords, but opponents say it infringes on the personal freedom of women who want to compete for jobs and real estate without reference to their reproductive choices. The bill still has to go back to the Senate, and if they pass it, then it'll head straight to the governor's desk, where it would surely be passed in very short order.