Corporate America’s response to Roe v. Wade is so far limited to new travel policies. Advocates say that should be the start, not the end

May 10, 2022, 10:00 AM UTC

Less than a week after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion signaled that the court is preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, many of America’s biggest companies have responded by announcing they will cover the costs of employees who need to travel to get an abortion.

If the ruling stands, abortion will no longer be protected as a constitutional right, and states will be able to impose stronger restrictions on who’s eligible for an abortion, or ban the procedure altogether. There are at least 13 states that have trigger laws in place that would outlaw abortions the moment Roe v. Wade is officially overturned. 

The response from some of the country’s biggest corporations has been swift. Amazon, Microsoft, Tesla, Apple, and Citigroup, among others, have pledged to cover any costs employees incur related to having to travel to receive an abortion in another state. 

In a statement Monday, Microsoft said it will support employees and their enrolled dependents in accessing critical health care, including abortion services and gender-affirming care. 

“This support is being extended to include travel expense assistance for these and other medical services where access to care is limited in availability in an employee’s home geographic region.”

Last week, Amazon said it will reimburse employees up to $4,000 annually when they’re forced to travel over 100 miles to obtain an abortion or other medical treatments. 

The swift corporate response is welcome news to abortion-rights advocates who stress the critical importance of corporate leaders supporting women’s reproductive rights.

“It is a great thing that companies are willing to do this, and I think it really defines what social responsibility for companies looks like,” Christian Nunes, president of the National Organization for Women, told Fortune. “It shows they understand the importance of their employees’ reproductive rights and that they’re willing to make sure they are protected.”

But advocates say that offering to pay for travel costs is just one of many equally important steps companies can and should take to safeguard their employees’ rights. 

Here are some other crucial steps companies can take in their response to support their employees’ rights, according to abortion-rights advocates.

Conduct an insurance policy self-audit

Among the first things a company should do is conduct a self-audit to identify and remove any obstacles to employees who need an abortion or other reproductive care, said Shelley Alpern, director of corporate engagement at Rhia Ventures, a nonprofit that advises and invests in companies that provide equitable reproductive and maternal health care to employees.  

“Many companies don’t cover elective abortions or medically necessary abortions without even knowing it,” she told Fortune. “A lot of times these policies just kind of sit on the shelf, and companies may not even be aware of this fact.”

Alpern said companies must make statements both publicly and privately so that employees know that their work-sponsored health insurance policies cover both elective and medically necessary abortions.

Ensure employees have proper benefits and remote work options

Advocates also stressed the importance of providing employees with options when it comes to their reproductive health. 

Companies should consider expanding benefits to employees, including offering paid time off instead of sick days, according to Nunes, from NOW. 

“Implementing PTO [paid time off] means that employees don’t need to explain the reasons why they are taking time off. If someone is taking off to get an abortion, PTO will help protect that employee and their privacy,” she said.

Another benefit advocates should consider is flexibility surrounding remote work, especially as more states begin passing restrictive abortion laws in the buildup of the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade

“Companies should revisit their remote work policy, so that if a company is headquartered in a state that bans abortions, they might rethink whether they absolutely need someone working in the office physically, especially if that person would prefer to live in another state,” Alpern said.

Refuse to support antiabortion politicians 

Advocates say one of the most consequential things a company can do to support abortion rights is to apply pressure to lawmakers to pass legislation that will protect reproductive rights, and to refuse to make donations to politicians who support overturning Roe v. Wade.

“Companies should refrain from supporting politicians and political committees that are working to restrict access,” Alpern from Rhia Ventures said. 

Companies have the ability to influence legislation, and it is their responsibility to stick up for their employees, advocates say.

“The more corporations who are willing to stand up with their corporate dollars and say, ‘We will not support elected officials who support taking away basic reproductive rights,’ or who say, ‘We will not endorse you anymore,’ the more they will help shift power toward justice,” Nunes said.

Overall, advocates say, when it comes to abortion, taking a stand in support of employees’ rights is “about more than [just] altruism,” according to Alpern.

“This is essential health care to so many employees,” Alpern said. “For companies that are really dependent on women’s labor, it becomes a business decision. [Supporting reproductive rights] is about making commitments to advancing women within the workplace.” 

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