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Companies are acting to preserve choice, even as they avoid talking about the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision

July 28, 2022, 9:38 AM UTC
Updated July 28, 2022, 2:26 PM UTC
Abortion-rights protesters demonstrate inside the Indiana State house.
Abortion-rights protesters demonstrate inside the Indiana State house.
Jeremy Hogan—SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Good morning.

Business reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade has been an interesting case study in CEO activism. Only a minority of companies—about 10%, according to a Conference Board survey—have made public statements on the issue. And who can blame them? Abortion continues to be a polarizing issue that divides their employees as well as the country. 

But a majority—51%—have made, or plan to make, some sort of internal response. Top of the list is making sure benefit plans provide travel expenses to employees who need to go out of state for health services. In short, companies are acting to preserve choice, even as they avoid talking about the Supreme Court decision.

The acting isn’t always easy. Companies can’t just reimburse such travel out of their expense budgets without threatening patient privacy. And there are endless legal questions about whether companies risk liability under existing, or yet to be written, state laws.

That’s why TriNet—which provides HR services to tens of thousands of small and medium-sized companies—is announcing today two new product offerings for clients to add to their benefit plans. One will provide tax-free travel reimbursement for employees to receive medical care far from home. The other will provide tax-free benefits for expenses incurred during the adoption process. By providing both, companies can preserve employee choice and further avoid making a political statement.

“Larger companies either already had travel covered in their existing health plans, or they quickly added it” after the Supreme Court decision, says Samantha Wellington, executive vice president and chief legal officer for TriNet. “Smaller companies are seeing what the large companies are doing. They want to make choice available.” Interestingly, the new TriNet benefits also can be extended to employees who aren’t covered by a company’s health care plan.

As for the talking part: I’m hearing from a growing number of large companies that are putting new processes in place to help decide when they should, and when they shouldn’t, speak out on controversial public issues. Questions asked in that process: Is this an issue that is core to our values as a company? Is it an issue in which we have special standing or expertise? And is it in an issue in which our voice will make a difference? These companies aren’t retreating to the standard of a decade ago, when “no-comment” was the default response for anything that didn’t directly affect the bottom line. But they are being more deliberate about when to speak out.

More news below. And be sure to catch this week’s episode of our podcast Leadership Next, in which Thrive CEO Arianna Huffington and Genesys CEO Tony Bates talk about how efforts to reduce employee stress lead to improved customer service. You can listen on Spotify or Apple.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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