More employers must cover abortion travel costs

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The list of major companies that have said they will help cover staff travel costs related to abortion is growing. It now includes Amazon, Yelp, Levi-Strauss, Microsoft, Apple, Citigroup, and others. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase are said to be considering joining the crowd, as is Bank of America.

they must. Other employers should, too.

26 states are expected to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, as appears likely when the Supreme Court issues its final opinion. than they want or start families sooner than they planned. Women make up half the workforce, although their disproportionate share of childcare responsibilities actually make them more likely than men to hold part-time jobs. Canceling RO may worsen those conditions; Most women who seek an abortion refer to economic or functional reasons.

Roe’s heart would turn some major cities, where there are many big employers, into abortion deserts. Health care coverage to support female employees. (Walmart, Kroger, Target, Delta Airlines, Home Depot, Procter & Gamble, and Wells Fargo have not responded to requests for comment or declined to share their policies, but I’ll update this column if they respond.)

Like it or not, employers are right in the middle of one of the most contentious issues in American politics. In fact, Walmart, Lowe’s, and TJX are already facing a proxy vote from active shareholders on the issue.

For companies struggling with what to do, there are ways they can support abortion access in line with current healthcare policies and practices. Some guidelines to keep in mind:

Frame it as healthcare (because it is)

Abortion is health care, and employers are by far the largest providers of health insurance in the United States. A company policy that will cover travel costs to visit a remote specialist must also cover abortion if the patient and employee are unable to access it locally. So Jane Fraser, CEO of Citigroup, explained to shareholders: “We’ve covered reproductive health care benefits for more than 20 years, and it’s also been our practice to make sure our employees have the same health coverage no matter where in the United States they live.”

This mirrors the language Yelp has used to describe its position: “As a primary remote company with a distributed workforce, this new feature allows our American employees and their families to obtain reproductive care equitably, no matter where they live.”

One of the worst things employers can do at the moment is signal that they’re not taking the problem seriously, a Sony executive discovered Thursday.

The good news is that since many large companies are already working to provide access to health care, many have thought about how to protect employee privacy. After all, employees get antidepressants, colonoscopy, and gallbladder surgeries through their employer-provided insurance without worrying the boss will find out. There should be no difference in abortion. For example, Yelp uses the insurance company to extend abortion travel coverage to employees and their families.

However, companies where this approach does not work can follow the example of Match, the parent company of Dallas-based Tinder. As reported by Bloomberg News’ Kelsey Butler, Match employees in Texas can contact Land Parenthood in Los Angeles, which will then arrange their travel and accommodations, which are paid for through a fund set up by Match CEO Shar Dobby. Since everything is handled through a third party, employee privacy must be ensured.

Don’t worry about the reaction of anti-RO customers or customers

There is little evidence that anti-Roe consumers will penalize the company for expanding its health benefits in this way, said Mike Tofel, a Harvard Business School professor who has spent years tracking CEO activity. I asked Tofel, for example, if a shopper would hesitate before choosing a new pair of Levi’s products. It was unlikely, he said, unless there was a picket at the store door. Even in a polarized country, politics is not on most consumers’ minds when they shop. Moreover, clients and audience often have short memories.

Staff is a different matter. Workers tend to remember when their employer supported them. This was confirmed by Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan in an interview with CBS: “With all of this stuff, we’re looking at what our team needs from us. I could have a personal view, but that’s not what we’re doing.”

Ignore the political imperative

Politicians looking to gain media attention are likely to cause a stir. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced a bill that would prevent companies from writing off abortion costs the way other business expenses, including employee benefits, can be calculated. A Texas lawmaker sent angry letters to Citigroup. Republicans in the US House of Representatives have threatened to cancel the bank’s government contracts.

This may worry CEOs just trying to run their businesses, but in today’s fraught political landscape, it’s hard for companies to avoid being criticized on one side or the other. In addition, enough companies have announced their plans to support abortion access that it is unlikely that any company that puts its head above the barrier will become a prime target. It takes courage to go first; It shouldn’t take much courage to go into twenty.

Covering the costs of an employee’s medical travel is a somewhat benign step compared to, say, Congress’s call to legalize access to abortion or threaten to leave states that prohibit abortion.

Tofel said the situation is somewhat similar to when Disney began offering health benefits to partners of gay employees at home. That was a far cry from the call to legalize same-sex marriage.

No doubt, employers prefer to focus on the many other issues facing them at the moment: inflation, supply chain problems, staff shortages and the rest of that. But we don’t always move in our battles; Sometimes they choose us.

More other writers at Bloomberg Opinion:

Why Wall Street Can’t Escape the Culture Wars: Paul J. Davis

Yellen is right about the costs of Raw’s heart: Juliana Goldman

Christian Science Roiled Boston City Hall. Shouldn’t have been: Stephen L Carter

(1) A six-week ban will also have an effect. Pregnancy is dated from the first day of a woman’s last period, not from the date of fertilization, so a woman who gets a positive pregnancy test 28 days after her last menstrual period is considered four weeks pregnant. 57% of miscarriages occur after six weeks.

(2) That means the average patient would have to travel 282 miles to get to a clinic, instead of the 33 miles she would have to travel today, according to research led by Caitlin Myers, an economist at Middlebury College.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial staff or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Sarah Greene Carmichael is the editor for Bloomberg Opinion. Previously, she was the managing editor of ideas and commentary at Barron’s and executive editor at Harvard Business Review, where she hosted the HBR IdeaCast.

More stories like these are available at bloomberg.com/opinion

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