By Courtney Connley and Sharon Yi
With an erosion of trust in the government and stakeholder capitalism at an all-time high, 70% of consumers want businesses to not only be value-driven but take a public and meaningful stance on issues from voting rights to racial injustice. And now as women's reproductive rights could be further threatened if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the C-Suite is facing pressure to respond.
"In this moment, silence is complicity," says Chief Member Deborah Garcia, Managing Director of Development at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "Silence signals both poor decision-making and a misalignment with the desire for an inclusive workplace."
As a majority of Americans support abortion in all or most cases, executives across the country are grappling with the implications of the impending decision and its impact on their workforce and community. For leaders who want to find a way to not just respond but lead their businesses to take action, here are five policies you can implement to support women’s rights today and for the future.
Re-Examine Employee Benefit Packages
With less access to legal abortions, Chief Member Serra Sippel, Chief Global Advocacy Officer at Fòs Feminista, says more company leaders will need to update their healthcare benefits to ensure the new needs of employees are taken care of.
"That could mean making sure that whatever healthcare insurance you're providing your employees has abortion coverage," says Sippel, whose organization focuses on sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice. "And if it doesn't include it, the business should supplement that when it's needed."
Cover Travel Expenses
Should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade in the coming months, data from the Guttmacher Intitute shows that 26 states are "certain or likely" to ban abortion immediately. According to The New York Times, that means 41% of women of childbearing age would lose access to their nearest abortion clinic and would have to travel an average of 280 miles. This will mostly impact women who cannot afford to travel, leave work for an extended period of time, or arrange proper childcare.
Therefore, Sippel says company executives should plan on covering any traveling expenses associated with an employee having to go out of state. Amazon is offering up to $4,000 in annual travel expenses for medical treatments including abortion. This policy, however, only applies to their insured staff and does not apply to their contract workers who are more likely to be of marginalized communities.
Apple and Levi's are ensuring their financial coverage of abortion travel costs will be applicable to their part-time and retail staff. They join Citigroup, Bumble, Math Group, Yelp, Uber, and Lyft who had implemented these policies earlier this year in response to Texas's SB8 law, which banned abortion at six weeks.
Offer to Relocate Staff
Businesses located in these "trigger law" states in particular are bracing for impact on how this will shake an already untenable battle for talent. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, state-level abortion restrictions costs local U.S. economies $105 billion per year due to reduced labor force participation and earnings levels for women aged 15 to 44. Non-partisan research firm PerryUndem found that 64% adults would not apply to a job in a state with restrictive abortion bans.
To continue doing business in these states — and not lose staff due to state lines — Sippel says it will be critical for leaders to offer relocation assistance for those who want it. Lack of access to abortion care "impacts the financial, the emotional, the health, and the stability of [individuals in] the workforce, and this affects both men and women."
"It is important to emphasize that these restrictive abortion laws have the biggest effects on low-wage workers, who cannot easily afford to travel out of state for an abortion," says Garcia. "Systemic barriers in education and job opportunities mean that the greatest harm will be dealt to people who are part of the Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities, people with low incomes, and people in rural areas."
Match Employee Donations to Abortion Funds
In addition to ensuring members in your own company are taken care of, Sippel says leaders can also match any employee donations that are made to organizations fighting for women's reproductive rights across the country. Garcia says that donating to Planned Parenthood, the Abortion Care Network, or a local, independent organization on abortionfunds.org is a great place to start.
Support Your Employees' Right to Vote
Sippel challenges leaders to reach out to their local Congress Member about passing the Women's Health Protection Act, which would protect the right to abortion in every state. Additionally, she says every leader should give employees time off on election day so that they can go and support candidates who believe in a woman's right to choose.
Lastly, Garcia advises executives to not underestimate their ability to create a ripple effect, by "engaging with peers and leveraging their sphere of influence to educate and mobilize other CEOs to take action."
"Abortion is not divisive and it is not controversial," says Garcia. "It is essential healthcare and a human right."