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DelBene Introduces Bill to Protect Women’s Privacy at Work

As women continue to face workplace discrimination when they become pregnant or try to conceive, it’s vital their privacy is protected.

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Washington, DC, July 13, 2016 | comments

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) today introduced the Birth Control Privacy Act (H.R. 5746) to ensure women’s personal medical decisions about contraception are not disclosed to their employers — preventing serious exposures of personal health data and protecting the financial security of millions of women and their families.

“If a woman stops filling her prescription for birth control, her boss shouldn’t be the first to know,” DelBene said. “A woman’s decisions about contraception and family planning are nobody’s business but her own. If employers can identify when a woman decides to stop using contraception that can mean lost jobs, missed opportunities for advancement and diminished financial stability. Congress should put safeguards in place to ensure women’s privacy is protected in workplace wellness programs.”

DelBene’s bill is a response to reports that some workplace wellness program are mining workers’ health data to predict who might become pregnant by scanning medical claims, identifying women who stop filling prescriptions for birth control and cross-referencing that data with women’s ages, family sizes and Internet browsing history. While these programs say they don’t share information about individual workers with employers, existing privacy laws do not consistently prevent such disclosures from occurring.

The Birth Control Privacy Act would explicitly prohibit workplace wellness programs from sharing personally identifiable information (PII) with employers about their workers’ use of birth control.

The bill was introduced with more than 40 original cosponsors. The legislation is endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Center for Reproductive Rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Partnership for Women & Families, the National Women’s Law Center and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“Although workplace wellness programs may be an important tool in promoting healthy behavior, there is a risk of reproductive coercion and workplace discrimination if women’s personal health information is shared with their employers. ACOG supports women’s right to decide whether and when to have children, to determine the number and spacing of their children, and to have the information, education, and access to health services to make those choices,” said Dr. Thomas Gellhaus, President of ACOG. “This legislation is an important component of protecting employees’ unfettered access to contraception.”

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Tags: Health