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Feministing
"Missouri Votes to Let Employers Fire People Who Use Birth Control."

Feministing on Wednesday, June 21st, 2017 in a web post

Column on Feministing website about abortion law is Pants on Fire

An Internet claim that Missouri employers will gain the right to fire people who use birth control when a state bill becomes law is incorrect.

"Missouri Votes to Let Employers Fire People Who Use Birth Control," reads a headline from Feministing.

"A new Missouri bill would target abortion providers and sanction employment and housing discrimination against people who use birth control or have an abortion," writes Sejal Singh, Feministing columnist, in the article.

A St. Louis ordinance passed in February prohibits discrimination because of reproductive health care decisions. But Missouri Senate Bill 5, or SB 5, which was signed by the governor in July, will overturn that local ordinance when it takes effect in October.

Since SB 5 was signed, we’ve seen claims that the bill would allow for employers to fire workers for using birth control. But we found no evidence that that’s true.

Where is this coming from?

Singh told PolitiFact Missouri she based her commentary on the analysis of news articles.

AllureRefinery29, and Newsweek were just a few among media sources that reported the bill would allow for employees to fire people for using birth control. Newsweek came out with an updated article stating that it, among other publications, had erroneously reported on the bill.

Many of these news organizations referenced NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, which ran an ad online and on the radio that read, "Do you think your boss should be able to fire you for using birth control?"

This ad only ran for one week, but its interpretation of the bill was influential to many of those articles.

According to Alison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, it was the rhetoric of Republicans and not the actual language that led to this interpretation.

"It still remains to be seen if SB 5 will pre-empt the St. Louis ordinance," Dreith said in an email interview.

What’s in SB 5?

The bill, signed by the governor in late July, touches on a lot of provisions, such as tissue report modifications, local abortion policies, employee disclosure policies and abortion facility inspections.

Under the political subdivision authority part of the bill, it allows property owners to refuse to rent or sell to a person who plans to use the facility as an abortion clinic that isn’t for the sole purpose of saving the mother’s life.

Within the same guidelines, it also doesn’t require healthcare providers or employers to provide coverage "that includes benefits that are not otherwise required by state law."

Employers in Missouri are already allowed to deny contraceptive coverage in their employee’s health insurance plans.

Daniel Wilhelm, with Republican Rep. Andrew Koenig’s office, said the bill does not reference birth control or contraceptives, except under circumstances where employers can refuse health care if they don’t want to pay for birth control.

Elizabeth Sepper, a professor of law at Washington University, said in an email that no matter what Missouri does, federal law bars an employer with 15 or more employees from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive choices, such as taking contraception.

Even with the passing of the bill, Sepper said St. Louis’ city ordinance still prevents employers from firing employees who use birth control, and SB 5 doesn’t affect that protection.

Our ruling

A columnist for Feministing claimed that SB 5 will allow employers to fire their workers for using birth control.

While the bill will impose higher level of restrictions on abortion providers and allow real estate agents to refuse to sell or rent them land, the bill does not say employers can fire workers for using contraceptives.

We rate this claim Pants on Fire.