Soapbox

Brown betrayed women with last-minute veto

California Gov. Jerry Brown gestures while speaking in San Francisco in September. Women’s rights advocates are criticizing him for vetoing a workplace protection bill.
California Gov. Jerry Brown gestures while speaking in San Francisco in September. Women’s rights advocates are criticizing him for vetoing a workplace protection bill. AP file

At around midnight Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown pandered to religious extremists and jeopardized the job security of women across California.

In his final act of this legislative session, Brown vetoed a bill that would have ensured that a woman can’t be fired because she decided to get pregnant, use contraception or have an abortion. Assembly Bill 569, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act, would have banned workplace discrimination due to a woman’s personal reproductive health choices.

 
Opinion

This bill – aimed at preventing attacks on women’s rights under the guise of “religious freedom” – was pushed after a San Diego woman was fired as a financial aid specialist at a Christian college for getting pregnant outside of marriage.

Vetoing this bill was a cowardly act. At a time of unparalleled threats to women’s rights by President Donald Trump and his Republican allies, the governor had a chance to stand up to protect California families. He failed.

This issue is much broader than one bill in California. Trump and the Republican Party are pushing to allow discriminatory behavior of all kinds under “religious freedom.” For instance, Trump’s secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has put the rights of LGBTQ students in jeopardy and said she favors allowing the federal government to fund private institutions that discriminate against these students. The administration has imposed new mass restrictions on abortion access, proposed a ban on transgender Americans in the military, and dismantled critical protections for sexual assault survivors on college campuses.

Ideological extremists are using “religious freedom” to take control over our lives and political discourse. As they gain more power and acceptance, their arguments seem to be swaying ostensibly progressive leaders such as Brown.

If his veto indicates anything, it’s that this won’t be the last time we have to fight these battles for women and their basic rights.

As NARAL Pro-Choice California has shown throughout the Legislature’s consideration of this bill, restrictions on reproductive freedom in the name of religious liberty are out of step with mainstream political consensus.

The legislation, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) and sponsored by NARAL Pro-Choice California and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, had support from more than 80 organizations, including 16 faith groups that argued that true religious freedom means allowing people to make decisions based on their own morals and values. More than 300 small businesses signed on, we delivered 15,000 signatures to Brown’s office, and the more than 1,000 members personally called.

Similar bills are being considered across the country; this was a prime opportunity for California to lead the way. With his veto, Brown takes our leadership in protecting reproductive freedom backward.

It also puts a spotlight on reproductive rights as a key issue for California’s 2018 race for governor. That’s why NARAL is convening a series of statewide reproductive rights town halls to bring together pro-choice candidates and voters. California’s women and families deserve a governor who will stand with us. Brown proved he’s not up to the job.

Amy Everitt is state director of NARAL-Pro Choice California. She can be contacted at info@prochoicecalifornia.org.

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