Are companies serious about their abortion access promises?

After the Supreme Court overturned the Roe vs. Wade, a series of American companies, has a message for its workforce: We’ll pay to help you get an abortion where it’s still available.

From banking to technology to entertainment, executives have pledged to help with access to procedures, some committing up to $10,000 to cover employee travel for healthcare. abortionist. But it’s not immediately clear how this will work in practice.

Does a worker have to tell their employer that they need an abortion to secure reimbursement for travel? How will companies ensure workers’ privacy? What will they do to protect employees – and themselves – from potential legal attacks, such as those made possible by Texas law allowing private citizens to sue any Who “supports and abets” abortion? Are part-time workers and contract workers covered? And will companies fight to restore the legal status of abortion in places where it has been lost?

So far, the companies making the promises don’t seem to have much of an answer.

“The worst thing you can do is promise your employees a perk and then you can do it,” said Sonja Spoo, reproductive rights campaign director at Ultraviolet, a national gender equity advocacy organization. there is no guarantee plan that you can actually deliver it. “Don’t wait until the law is passed to know what you’re going to do. Let’s start learning it now. “

The new indoor travel reimbursement programs announced by many companies will require establishing safeguards around employee privacy, experts and reproductive health advocates say. Without the right things, some doubt that this benefit will be widely used – if at all.

“I didn’t know people would feel comfortable calling someone and saying, ‘Hey, I want to make the most of my vacation time,’ says Jen L’Estrange, founder of Red Clover, a staffing company. this new pregnancy’. .

Airbnb, Reddit, Snap, Netflix, Yelp, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Rakuten, Starbucks and EBay are among the major companies that have said they will offer travel benefits through their wellness plans.

L’Estrange says there are a number of things companies can do to make sure workers feel comfortable accessing reproductive care. One way would be to create what she calls a “health care policy” that will help workers access out-of-state healthcare in any form, including but not limited to breaking pregnancy and will include generous paid time off, including unplanned sick leave to give workers time to travel and recuperate. As part of that policy, L’Estrange said, companies can offer an allowance paid to workers at the beginning of the year, “regardless of whether they use it or not.”

“I’d say get rid of the abortion question,” says L’Estrange. “You want knee surgery and you want to do it in a different state? Great, we will assist you in that.”

Some reproductive rights advocates say that if companies are really serious about providing out-of-state care to workers, they will need to act both inside and out of the office.

The Times asked more than a dozen companies who said they would cover out-of-state abortion care if they had a plan to defend against legal challenges, especially in Texas. Airbnb, Reddit, Snap, Netflix, Microsoft, EBay, Wells Fargo, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Starbucks, Amazon, Discord and Boeing did not respond to questions. Only Yelp and Rakuten answered directly.

“This is the right thing to do for our employees and we are not concerned about legal risk,” a Yelp spokesperson said in a statement. “With more than 200 employees in Texas, we feel it is important that they have consistent access to the health services they need, no matter where they live.”

A spokesman for Rakuten said: “I cannot speculate on theoretical legal questions. “While we don’t have an office in Texas, we do have about 70 employees who work remotely in the state. We are committed to providing a unified employee experience where all members of our team can access and enjoy the same benefits, culture, and career opportunities, regardless of their backgrounds. where you live or any other identifiers”.

The bigger question, then, is whether companies that claim employee reproductive health care are willing to treat politics as a cure-all, putting real money and energy behind their promises. their.

Many reproductive health advocates are calling on corporations to use their powerful lobbying teams to fight to defeat anti-abortion bills in state legislatures and get involved. other political pressure tactics.

“One thing companies can and should do is try to combat this by saying we won’t have jobs in your state, we won’t have our conventions in your state. yours,” said Cary Franklin, professor of law at UCLA and department director of the Center for Reproductive Health, Law, and Policy. “It’s not just the states that have power over corporations. Corporations also have leverage. ”

Advocates also argue that corporate political support should go hand in hand with public statements about supporting employees’ access to reproductive care.

Since 2020, American corporations have donated $195.4 million to anti-abortion legislators, according to Ultraviolet. In the South, home to all three major Supreme Court abortions in the last decade, 79% of corporate political funding goes to anti-abortion legislators, the team found.

“You can’t single-handedly fund these extremists and then beg forgiveness for your sins by paying your people for care,” says Spoo, of Ultraviolet. “American corporate contributions to anti-abortion politics have led us to this point. It is entirely in their favor to get us out of it by withdrawing their funding from politicians who are actively working to restore our rights. ”

Political action such as supporting candidates supporting Medicaid expansion would have the potential benefit of improving access to health care for those who are underserved in their jobs – a group that includes Many part-time and contract employees at companies have announced new benefits.

Franklin, a UCLA law professor, said that providing reproductive care including abortion supports the health of workers and their careers. “But 75% of the people who have abortions in this country are poor and low income and they don’t work for big corporations. They don’t have a job with Microsoft.”

Eileen Appelbaum, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said companies paying for out-of-state reproductive care were “good” but “not the solution”. Because so many women are left out of the equation, “the best solution,” says Appelbaum [for corporations] is to contribute to the reproductive health care fund. “

The Times asked companies if they would donate such amounts, but most did not respond. A Yelp spokesperson said in a statement that the Yelp Foundation has combined employee donations to organizations that fight against anti-abortion laws in Texas and elsewhere, as well as organizations like China Reproductive Rights Center, NARAL Pro Choice America, Lilith Foundation, Planned Parenthood, and Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.

At the same time, Yelp Inc PAC made political donations to anti-abortion Republicans including Sensation USA Ben Sasse in Nebraska and John Boozman in Arkansas, Representatives Ken Buck of Colorado and Jerry Moran of Kansas and others. other, according to Open Secrets.

Appelbaum believes it will be harder for companies to hire women in the states because abortion is illegal. Workers want to know that they will get the health care they need in all situations – for example, a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy or an incomplete miscarriage that could lead to sepsis. It may not be clear until it’s too late when the “mother’s life” exceptions apply to abortion bans. “Women will look for companies in states where they don’t have to worry about this,” says Appelbaum.

Ultimately, a law banning basic reproductive health care would lead to a situation where “the economies of those states will really suffer,” Appelbaum said. “Educated women who have the choice are not going to stay in those states. There will be a lot of people voting with their feet.”

https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2022-06-30/companies-promise-abortion-access-are-they-serious Are companies serious about their abortion access promises?

Edmund DeMarche

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