Companies must now take action to protect employees’ abortion rights

In a devastating blow, the United States Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, stripping Americans of their constitutional right to have abortions and effectively prohibition of the procedure in 26 states. The economic impacts of this decision will no doubt be staggering.

For many people, especially low-wage workers and people of color, access to safe and reliable reproductive health care can mean the difference between economic insecurity and economic progress. Women who do not have access to abortion care are thrice more likely to leave the labor market and almost four times more likely to have a family income below the federal poverty level. Also, blacks and Latinx people will be disproportionately impacted by deer reversed, further worsening economic inequality. In states like Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, which already restrict access to abortion, the majority of those who get abortions are people of color.

With one in four women having an abortion in their lifetime, preserving access to abortion is crucial not only to help individuals and families stay on the path to economic progress, but also to limit negative impacts on the economy in the sense wide. For businesses, it’s just good business. Supporting better access to reproductive health care allows organizations to better connect their values ​​to their social object and reaffirm their commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion. In today’s competitive job market, it also helps broaden their pool of available talent: 64% of college-educated workers who participated in a survey last year said they wouldn’t even apply for a job in a state that has passed an abortion ban.

This is why employers have a key role to play in reducing the access gaps that will now arise from deer being overthrown. At Jobs for the Future (JFF), we have taken action to address inequalities in access to reproductive health care due to Roe vs. Wade be reversed by expanding our medical benefits to include, among other things, reimbursements of up to $4,000 per year for our employees and their dependents who must travel more than 100 miles for health services. JFF CEO, Maria Flynn stressed the urgent need for these and other actions in an essay published shortly after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that supported the reversal Roe v. Wade.

As the fallout from the decision unfolds, employers across the country must act now to ensure their employees still have access to reproductive health care. Here’s how.

Expand the scope of reproductive health care coverage. Companies should thoroughly review their health care benefit packages to identify what elements of reproductive health care they do and do not cover, such as types of abortions, timelines, policies, and changes to service. statewide, reimbursement policies, and then develop strategies to close those gaps. . They should also take a closer look at the plans offered by their insurers to see what types of coverage are available.

Companies should think holistically and consider adding benefits that help employees deal with any set of challenges they might face when needing an abortion or other reproductive health care services. This may include coverage for travel expenses, relocation assistance for workers who choose to leave states with restrictive abortion policies, more flexible paid leave and remote work policies, child care benefits, expanded children, emergency funds and additional financial and administrative support for part-time workers and those in low-wage jobs or contract positions.

Many companies have started to take such measures. Citigroup recently announced a policy to provide financial support to workers who must travel to receive reproductive health services. Many other companies, including JPMorgan Chase, Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Levi Straussand MasterCardannounced similar policies to cover travel expenses for health care needs.

Stronger support for employee well-being. Expansion benefit plans and policy adoption that more fully meet the needs of workers considering abortion are great first steps, but organizations should be doing much more to support the overall physical, mental and emotional health of employees whose access to reproductive health services is at risk .

Companies should regularly check in on employees to get a sense of their psychological and emotional well-being, provide workers with opportunities to discuss issues and concerns in a safe setting, and provide access to anonymous mental health services. Developing internal and external communication plans to ensure employees and the public are aware of the company’s position on these issues is also key to ensuring workers feel safe, accepted and supported. Organizations should ensure that employees are aware of all reproductive health care benefits available to them and understand how to use company resources.

Encourage voting and civic engagement. Employers must be prepared to address the concerns of employees, customers, investors and other stakeholders who are increasingly aware of and even directly involved in abortion access debates in Washington and at the state level. . For starters, they can ensure that their paid leave policies take into account the fundamental right of employees to vote in elections and to engage in activities related to public debate on issues that concern them.

Separately, employers can also assess how well state policies align with their organizational values ​​and, where they conflict, consider what adjustments, if any, they should make. Companies should also consider aligning their political giving, philanthropic investments, and corporate spending with their stated values, especially those related to access to reproductive health care. Engaging in government relations activities to promote the policies and laws they support has never been more important.

Overthrow Roe v. Wade will immediately have a huge impact on not just half of the American workforce, but everyone who depends on them, the organizations that employ them, and the economy at large. Company action alone cannot compensate for the loss of what has been enshrined for decades as a fundamental constitutional right, but employers must do all they can to mitigate the impact of this historic and devastating policy change.

Cat Ward is managing director of JFFLabs, a unit of the nonprofit organization Jobs for the Future that designs and scales new approaches to promote economic progress. She founded and manages the practice of JFF’s Corporate Action Platform and Advisory Services. Megha Bansal Rizoli is Director of Organizational Strategy at JFF. She also leads the development and implementation of JFF’s Impact Framework to quantify and articulate the organization’s impact in driving equitable economic progress for all.

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