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The business case for abortion care policies

June 27, 2022, 1:43 PM UTC
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision, Dick’s Sporting Goods president and CEO Lauren Hobart announced the company will support employees who need to travel to access safe legal abortions.
Sarah Silbiger - Bloomberg - Getty Images

The moment the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, companies such as Patagonia and Dick’s Sporting Goods announced their abortion care policies and their commitment to reproductive rights on LinkedIn. Supportive comments flooded in, but some questioned why companies who sell fleece jackets and sneakers were “getting so political.” 

These companies have no choice but to get political because the decision impacts their employees. 

There’s a steep economic cost when businesses do nothing. In 2021 alone, the more than 100 state-level abortion restrictions that were enacted across the country cost the U.S. economy $105 billion in reduced earnings, employee turnover, and absences. The Institute of Women’s Policy Research has estimated that private sector growth could have increased by nearly 10% if state-level abortion restrictions were eliminated.

Employees who live in the 26 states where abortion will be outlawed or severely restricted will have to make life-changing decisions. Do they quit their jobs and move out of state where their rights will be protected, or take time off and pay out-of-pocket expenses to travel for an abortion?

Lower-wage employees won’t have the luxury of choice or parental leave. They’ll be forced to give birth and determine how they’ll afford childcare. Many will need to quit their job, unsure how they’ll make ends meet. 

“Inequality hurts economic growth, especially high inequality (like ours) in rich nations (like ours),” said Christopher Ingraham, who analyzed studies on the connection between inequality and its impact on the economy.

The bottom line 

If corporate America and up-and-coming startups don’t step up and craft meaningful abortion care policies, they’ll lose employees, face stiffer recruitment challenges, and suffer major financial losses.

The economy is already holding on by a thread—imagine the toll it will take when every year, hundreds of thousands of workers are forced to travel for abortion.

Live up to your values

Companies can’t afford to avoid the elephant in the room. Employees are claiming their power for an equitable workplace, and they’re forcing collective action by demanding better pay, better health care, and benefits. Companies can’t operate without employees, something the Great Resignation has clearly shown. 

The time is now for businesses to show up and support their employees by providing abortion care. Here are five recommendations for leaders as they craft abortion care policies.

1. Review abortion laws in the states where your employees are located.

As part of this review, assess your company’s health care plans. “Will your state-based health care plan through the ACA marketplace cover abortions? If not, for employers who want to provide access, they can explore private, self-funded employer health care plans that cover abortions,” said Amy Epstein Gluck, employment counsel and partner at FisherBroyles, LLP

2. Be explicit and define exactly what your policy will and won’t cover.

Will the policy cover transportation, accommodations, and food if employees need to travel out of state for care? Will it cover medical bills, PTO, legal fees, etc.? 

Alloy, a women-led startup, is offering employees and their significant others a $1,500 reimbursement for travel expenses if they need to travel out of state for abortions. Alloy will also cover 50% of legal costs up to $5,000.

Amazon and Starbucks said their policies will cover care that requires travel over 100 miles. However, leaders in the health care space cautioned against mileage restrictions. Focus your policy on helping staff access abortion where it’s accessible and not restricted.

3. Define who will be covered under the abortion care policy.

Abortion impacts entire families. Consider how your policy will cover an employee’s spouse, significant other, or dependents. 

4. Determine how your company will maintain employee privacy.

Companies need to be very careful to protect the privacy of their employees for legal as well as ethical reasons. “Any medical information has to be kept confidential. Confidentiality is a hallmark provision of the Americans With Disabilities Act,” said Epstein Gluck. 

One way to handle this is to partner with an outside group that can act as a privacy buffer. For example, the Match Group, headquartered in Texas, has partnered with Planned Parenthood in L.A., which will handle requests and travel arrangements for Match employees. The Match Group has said that it will not have access to any of this data to help protect employee privacy. 

5. Be prepared to pivot and adapt your policy.

With Roe v. Wade overturned, state laws and policies are changing quickly, so be prepared to update your abortion care policy. 

In a post-Roe America, it’s vital that companies adapt to the political realities alongside their employees and fiercely defend their rights to reproductive health care. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s good business.

Allyson Kapin is the founder of Rad Campaign and Women Who Tech. She’s also the founding partner of the W Fund.

The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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