Louisville’s largest employers mostly silent on abortion policies | In depth

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville-based Brown-Forman Corp. on Monday reminded its thousands of employees that the company’s health care plan includes coverage for abortion and that the benefits of the company include assistance with travel expenses if necessary to obtain medical procedures, including abortion.

“We believe healthcare decisions are private and best made with the support of your healthcare providers,” the company said in a message to employees.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling revoking a constitutional right to abortion, some large corporations including Walt Disney, JP Morgan Chase and Dick’s Sporting Goods said they would pay for employees to travel to states where the procedure is legal.

Such benefits would likely apply to employees based in Kentucky, where abortion was banned as soon as the Supreme Court issued its opinion thanks to a “trigger” ban passed in 2019. Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Friday that abortion is “for all intents and purposes on“as is, except in cases where it is to save the life of the mother or prevent serious bodily harm.

In Indiana, restricting abortion will be on the table when the legislature calls a special session next week.

Among large employers in the Louisville-southern Indiana area, Brown-Forman is the exception. WDRB News this week surveyed the region’s top 10 employers in 2020 – a mix of businesses, government units and nonprofit healthcare providers – as well as the five largest publicly traded companies based in Louisville on their employment policies related to abortion.

Only a handful of organizations responded.

Humana Inc., Louisville’s largest corporate headquarters, said in a statement that its employees have access to “reproductive care coverage and services” while the company assesses the impact of the court ruling.

“We respect that our employees and members have different views regarding the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade,” Humana said. “While there remain many unanswered questions, we are focused on supporting the health of our employees, members and others, and will continue to assess the implications of the decision where we operate.”

Louisville’s other major public companies – Yum! Brands, Texas Roadhouse and Papa John’s International – did not respond to inquiries this week.

Atlanta-based transportation giant UPS, which has its global airline hub in Louisville, is the region’s largest employer with more than 25,000 employees in 2020, according to a list from Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce. UPS did not respond to requests for comment.

Greater Louisville Inc., the voice of local employers, avoided commenting on how businesses should handle the issue.

“As a non-partisan, business-focused organization, GLI does not take a position or comment on legal proceedings or questions of constitutionality,” spokeswoman Olivia Sievert said. “However, we continue to encourage employers to adopt policies that best meet the needs of their workforce.”

Publicly traded companies are facing increasing calls from employees and shareholders to take a stand on reproduction issues.

“The tides are definitely turning,” said Shelley Alpern, director of corporate engagement at Rhia Ventures, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that works with activist investors to push companies to adopt reproductive health policies. expansive. The group also maintains a database tracking the responses of companies abortion bans.

Alpern’s group participated in an investor proposal earlier this year that would have led Walmart to research the risks and costs to business of “state policies severely restricting reproductive rights”. But the proposal, opposed by the company and the founding family shareholders, was overwhelmingly rejected earlier this month.

Walmart, which is also one of Louisville’s largest employers, did not respond to a request for comment.

Among other large Louisville-area employers, the Baptist Health System said only “therapeutic abortion, to save the life of the mother,” is covered under its employee plan. The University of Louisville Health made a similar distinction, saying its benefits package “does not cover any elective procedures or travel expenses.”

“We will continue to monitor and review the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision,” UofL Health spokesman David McArthur said.

The University of Louisville, on the other hand, “does not offer the travel benefit that some companies do,” but does cover therapeutic abortion as well as elective abortion in cases of “rape, incest, or when the the member’s doctor deems it medically appropriate,” according to spokesman John Karman.

Jefferson County public schools also don’t offer a travel benefit, while their health coverage is dictated by the Kentucky Employee Health Plan, according to spokeswoman Carolyn Callahan.

Other major employers did not respond to WDRB requests, including Norton Healthcare, Ford Motor Co. and Kroger.

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