Several major companies in the U.S. are scrambling to secure abortion access for their employees now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. Around half of all states plan to ban abortion outright. There are legal fights brewing between states with different abortion laws on the books. States where abortion will soon be illegal are trying to make it harder for pregnant women to travel across state lines to receive the procedure.
But major companies, including Disney, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Tesla, Lyft, Yelp, and Amazon, say they will cover the cost of travel for employees looking to get an abortion if they can’t access one legally in their home state.
Companies know that their workers may have no choice but to leave their jobs if they are forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. But taking a public stand for or against abortion can get some companies into trouble with their customers.
“Consumers and employees don’t want companies to ‘take a stand,’ unless companies take up their position and cause,” said Kim Whitler, a business administration professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. “Consequently, picking a side on a divisive issue then becomes a math problem for firms.”
But some firms say they have no choice but to protect abortion rights for their employees.
According to an internal memo from Dick’s Sporting Goods, the company says it will provide up to $4,000 in travel reimbursement to employees that need to travel to the nearest location where this type of care is available.
“We recognize people feel passionately about this topic – and that there are teammates and athletes who will not agree with this decision. However, we also recognize that decisions involving health and families are deeply personal and made with thoughtful consideration. We are making this decision so our teammates can access the same healthcare options, regardless of where they live, and choose what is best for them.,” the letter reads.
“This benefit will be provided to any teammate, spouse or dependent enrolled in our medical plan, along with one support person,” CEO Lauren Hobart added.
Magazine publisher Conde Nast sent out a similar message to its employees.
The company called the ruling “a crushing blow to reproductive rights that have been protected for nearly half a century.”
CEO Roger Lynch said that employees “are now eligible for reimbursement on travel and lodging” for abortion procedures as well as infertility or gender-affirming services.
Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is putting together a similar policy.
“We intend to offer travel expense reimbursements, to the extent permitted by law, for employees who will need them to access out-of-state health care and reproductive services,” a Meta spokesperson said on Friday. “We are in the process of assessing how best to do so given the legal complexities involved.”
Disney is also standing up for abortion access.
“We remain committed to providing comprehensive access to quality and affordable care for all of our employees, cast members and their families, including family planning and reproductive care, no matter where they live,” a company spokesperson said.
An internal memo sent to employees obtained by CNBC added, “We have processes in place so that an employee who may be unable to access care in one location has affordable coverage for receiving similar levels of care in another location.”
Getting Back to Business
Experts say these statements and internal memos are about more than just politics. Companies have a responsibility to help their workers access care.
Jen Stark, co-director of the Center for Business and Social Justice, said the ruling was “deeply destabilizing” for companies and their employees and the situation would probably get worse.
“The fall of Roe is just the end of the beginning. We will see more extreme public policy, unfortunately, at the state level and with even more extreme policy if there is a willingness at the federal level,” she said.
Meanwhile, Republic lawmakers and legislators have started threatening companies that say they will help their workers get an abortion if they want one. After Citigroup announced a similar policy, conservatives in Congress asked lawmakers to consider canceling its contract with the company.
“Proponents of extreme policy do issue a lot of punitive rhetoric,” said Stark. “Ultimately a larger story is that these moves are economically destabilizing [for corporations] and sow a lot of chaos. On that issue alone, companies’ antennas are up.”
She said that companies were willing to put up with this rhetoric before because the rights of their employees were not at risk.
But now “the collateral damage has increased, making it harder for companies to say one thing and do another, and the cost of that is going to be higher than the perception of backlash,” she said.