The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the landmark 1973 case, Roe v. Wade. The court ruled in Roe that, “A person may choose to have an abortion until a fetus becomes viable, based on the right to privacy contained in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Viability means the ability to live outside the womb, which usually happens between 24 and 28 weeks after conception.” [1]

Texas Heartbeat Act

In anticipation of the overturn of Roe, approximately 25 red state legislatures have enacted or prepared law to ban or greatly restrict abortions, mostly at 15 weeks. Some state laws, such as Texas Heartbeat Act, S.B.8, effective 9/1/21, ban abortions “after detection of an unborn child’s heartbeat” generally at about six weeks. Per the Act, “Texas has compelling interests from the outset of a woman’s pregnancy on protecting the health of the woman and the life of the unborn child.” Among the Act’s enforcement mechanisms, S.B.8 deputizes private citizens to sue anyone who aids or abets the provision of an abortion with successful plaintiffs receiving a minimum of $10,000. The U.S. Supreme Court, with its new conservative slant, declined to intervene on Texas S.B.8. The Texas law will stand.

Impact on workplaces

The impact of the overturn of Roe on the workplace is complex but is inextricably connected to workplace management of reproductive and development health and safety programs. Like Texas S.B.8, each workplace should have compelling interests from the outset of a woman’s pregnancy on protecting the health of the woman and the life of the unborn child. Lest we get caught up in emotions, OSHA’s HazCom standard includes the wording “unborn child” as appropriate in required hazard statements.

Workplace reproductive and developmental health and safety programs address the compelling interests of both pro-life and pro-choice camps. Urgency to install or verify correct management of your facility’s reproductive and developmental health and safety program is important. In addition to new abortion laws, that necessitate that people of child-bearing age properly manage their reproductive health, be aware that 30 states passed laws commonly known as Pregnant Workers Fairness Acts (PWFA); and the federal PWFA awaits a vote from the U.S. Senate, having already passed the House in strong bipartisan fashion.

Web link learning

Below are eleven web pages, most of which are brief reads. Most can be read in about five minutes. Some are lengthier but you may scan, as appropriate, for understanding. For example, reference 9 is the full case comments by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2015 case, Peggy Young v. UPS. In reference 9, I suggest that you carefully read the second paragraph at page 50 of 52. Reference 8 is a brief summary of Peggy Young v UPS.

Reference 3 is a must read. Note my comments in the front-page cover story in the February 2002 USA TODAY. Reference 4 will be your template for identifying and considering workplace risks during pregnancy. Scan, as appropriate, references 10 and 11. Note in reference 10 some specific workplace hazards during pregnancy. Particularly, how would you address the stated risk in reference 10 that workplace exposure to noise in excess of 80 decibels during pregnancy may cause preterm births? Be aware that preterm births are the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States.

Review of US federal and state Supreme Court cases, some such as reference 5 that go back over 100 years, gives a good understanding of judicial viewpoints on pregnancy at work and protection of future children.

Reference 7 is an interesting read. Mikala was exposed to carbon monoxide in utero and was born with several developmental disabilities. The modern DNEL for carbon monoxide is 20 ppm. After reading reference 7, is it better to adhere to the DNEL or PEL for CO?

The most important read is reference 6. Very short read. Your takeaway from the read is how does the US Supreme Court suggest avoiding tort liability? Read paragraph (c) and (d) very closely – they both must exist to limit tort liability.

Upon completion of review of each reference you should be well-armed to discuss and debate why the development and management of workplace reproductive and developmental health are necessary.

1. Roe v. Wade:
2. U.S. Supreme Court: Brief of amici curiae economist in support of respondents 9/20/21:
3. USA TODAY 02/26/2002: Workers take employers to court over birth defects
4. Commission of the European Communities 11/20/2000: On the Guidelines on the assessment of the chemical, physical and biological agents and industrial processes considered hazardous for the safety or health of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding:
5. Muller v. Oregon:
6. United Automobile Workers v. Johnson Controls:
7. Snyder v. Michael’s Stores:
8. Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc.:
9. Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc.: Full case:
10. Pregnant Workers Health Impact Assessment 2019: Louisville Department of Public Health and Wellness:
11. House Report 2021 PWFA: