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The end of Roe v. Wade is a workforce issue. Businesses can’t avoid talking about abortion anymore

May 4, 2022, 1:16 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Match Group’s CEO steps down, the U.S. government will now negotiate for Brittney Griner’s return from Russia, and business can’t avoid weighing in on abortion any longer. Have a reflective Wednesday.

– Call to action. If there’s one thing the last two years have shown us, it’s that companies can no longer stay silent on social issues. In today’s political climate, polarizing topics that were previously deemed impolite for the corporate dinner table have spurred companies to take a public stance, including racial justice, immigration, gun control, climate change and—you guessed it—women’s rights.

The impending Supreme Court decision that is poised to strike down Roe v. Wade will carry weighty ramifications for the one in four U.S. women who will have an abortion by age 45, and, much like other social issues that have trickled into corporate America, lead to economic repercussions.

Considering the high share of Americans who say abortion should be legal, relatively few companies have openly responded to the leaked draft ruling written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. It may be that companies are waiting for the decision to be finalized before engaging, but the “silver lining” of the Supreme Court leak is that it gives businesses time to prepare an action plan, says Jen Stark, the incoming co-director of the Center for Business and Social Justice at Business for Social Responsibility who currently works with businesses on the issue of abortion as senior director at Tara Health Foundation.

Companies headquartered in Texas or that have a sizable talent pool in the state have a head start; Texas’s six-week abortion ban passed in September was the first time many addressed abortion restrictions and seriously contemplated the adverse effects on their workforces. In the wake of the bill’s passage, Texas-based Match Group and Bumble announced funds for employees who must travel to seek abortion care. Citi and Yelp have since said they will similarly cover travel costs for employees.

The decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is Texas on steroids. Even if companies don’t mount a full-throated rebuke of its repeal, they will be forced to deal with the impact on their workforces. “If nothing else, it’s a bureaucratic and administrative nightmare for companies,” says Stark. She points to the logistical hassle companies had to contend with when providing spousal benefits to LGBTQ+ workers prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage. “Folks that pass extreme public policy pass it without any regard for implementation, and companies are left sifting through the rubble,” she adds. “That smoldering pile of rubble is becoming too hard for companies to look away from.”

Already, some companies have a running start. Amalgamated Bank announced Tuesday that it will cover travel costs for employees and their dependents who need to seek abortion elsewhere, including plane fare, gas money, hotel costs, and meal expenses. The benefit attempts to address the issue of childcare for workers who must travel to access reproductive health care. (But one issue not yet addressed by businesses is travel coverage for a partner; abortion is, after all, an outpatient medical procedure during which patients are often accompanied by another adult.)

Amazon announced a $4,000 reimbursement benefit for medical care that requires travel over 100 miles, including abortion. The benefit, however, applies only to workers on Amazon’s health care plans, leaving out contract workers, delivery drivers, and the most marginalized employees at the retail giant. Apple and Levi’s have both specified that their coverage of abortion travel costs will extend to part-time and retail workers.

If Roe is officially struck down, abortion would immediately become illegal in 13 states with “trigger laws” on the books. Somewhere between 23 and 26 states would be “certain or likely” to quickly ban abortion, meaning that employees in nearly half the country would need to take time off work and drive or fly to access time-sensitive medical care. Those who are forced to give birth—without paid parental leave or affordable childcare to follow—may leave the workforce entirely. In either case, the effects will be hugely disruptive to companies—even more so as they struggle to find workers to meet current demand.

Levi’s made the business case for abortion rights in one of the most comprehensive corporate statements so far. “Protecting access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion, is a critical business issue,” the company said in a statement yesterday. “Efforts to further restrict or criminalize that access would have far-reaching consequences for the American workforce, the U.S. economy and our nation’s pursuit of gender and racial equity. It would jeopardize workplace gains women have made over the past 50 years, disproportionately impact women of color, and force companies to implement different health policies for different locations.”

Companies now understand this reality, says Stark. “No one’s asking, ‘Why is this important?'” she says.

Business solutions to social problems are by their very nature patchwork. But with Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema declaring they will not support the elimination of the filibuster to enable the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act, the private sector response may be all we have for the moment.

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

The Broadsheet is Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Today’s edition was curated by Amiah Taylor. Subscribe here.

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Rapid response. Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivered one of the most widely-shared responses to the Supreme Court's potential reversal of Roe v. Wade. "I am angry. I am angry, and upset, and determined," she told reporters in an emotional clip. Vice President Kamala Harris, who recently tested negative for COVID-19 after her positive test last week, said in a statement that "this is the time to fight for women."

- Detention classificationThe U.S. government now classifies WNBA star Brittney Griner as a "wrongful detainee" in Russia. The classification means the U.S. will now negotiate for Griner's return rather than wait for her case to go through the Russian legal system. The WBNBA star was arrested in February on suspicion of drug smuggling. ESPN

- New match. Match Group CEO Shar Dubey, who led the $3 billion revenue company's public response to the Texas abortion ban, is stepping down from the role. Dubey was at Match for 16 years and will stay on the company's board of directors as Zynga president Bernard Kim takes over the CEO role. Wall Street Journal

- For sale. Vice Media, led by CEO Nancy Dubuc, is reportedly seeking a buyer—or two. The company is considering selling itself in parts; its studios could secure a separate owner from its online media operations. Vice pursued going public last year but its SPAC plans didn't pan out. CNBC

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Lark Health named Lynne Nowak as chief medical officer and Shannon Marques as SVP of revenue operations. ClickUp has announced Briana Ings as VP of product. Apple hired longtime Ford executive Desi Ujkashevic to work on its Apple Car Project. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Across borders. Abortion access is a critical issue right now for Ukrainian refugees. In Ukraine, abortion has been relatively easy to access; many refugees—mostly mothers forced to leave their husbands behind—are now in Poland where the procedure is much more restricted. The Fuller Project

- Off the field. The Union of European Football Associations this week banned Russia from the European women’s soccer championship and from qualifying for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Russia's men's soccer teams had already been penalized by Europe's soccer governing bodies. New York Times

- Sun safety. Naomi Osaka’s new suncare brand Kinlò hits the shelves at Walmart on April 30 and will be available online and at 2,500 stores. Created in collaboration with dermatologist Naana Boakye, the suncare brand is the latest skincare line targeting people of color. Allure

ON MY RADAR

It is not normal or admirable that Kim Kardashian lost 16 pounds in 3 weeks for the Met Gala Allure

Women have been disappearing from science for as long as they’ve been allowed to study science Slate

All my environmental heroes are Black women Vogue

A nurse made a fatal error. Why was she charged with a crime? Vox

PARTING WORDS

"Being able to not even win but just compete as yourself, it’s just been freeing."

- Runner Jacob Caswell, who ran in the New York City Half Marathon in a new category for nonbinary runners. 

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