- Since the fall of Roe, companies are navigating an increasingly tumultuous national landscape and patchwork of new and proposed restrictions as well as litigation that impacts abortion access in the states.
- Abortion access matters to business, as it affects approximately half of the US workforce.
- BSR’s Center for Business and Social Justice works with a network of civil society partners and experts in reproductive health to provide actionable guidance to business.
Since the fall of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, companies from the Fortune 1000 to small businesses have supported abortion access as part of workplace health, safety, and well-being—and as part of gender equity commitments. At a fundamental level, abortion access matters to business because it affects approximately half of the workforce (some 60 million women of reproductive age) and has significant economic impacts on a micro and macro level.
Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia have enacted more than 80 new laws protecting abortion access while 14 states have made abortion illegal. However, bellwether ballot initiatives since Roe was overturned in seven states, including Ohio, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana and Michigan, affirm that the overwhelming majority want healthcare decisions to remain between patients and providers.
Restrictive public policies compound healthcare deserts in states that extend beyond reproductive care, create avoidable medical emergencies, and impose financial and travel burdens for those seeking abortion access.
This ongoing public health crisis sets up companies as a firewall when it comes to enabling access to abortion—a form of healthcare that one in four women may need over the course of their careers. Employees are aware of this fact. According to 2023 research on Talent and Social Policies conducted by Morning Consult, on behalf of BSR:
By a 2:1 margin, workers want to live in a state where abortion is legal and accessible.
Nearly half of workers are concerned for themselves or their partner being criminally charged or going to prison for having an abortion in a state where it is illegal.
More than a third of workers are concerned about having enough money for themselves or their partner to travel out of state for an abortion.
Stories are coming out about the severe impact and consequences since the overturn of Roe and state abortion restrictions on women and their families. Nationally, the number of people who crossed state lines to obtain abortion care more than doubled.
In Texas, Kate Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two had to flee the state to obtain an abortion as a result of unsuccessful litigation to clarify medical exceptions. According to Reed Smith, the law firm that filed an amicus on behalf of businesses that operate in Texas:
“This is why businesses will continue to struggle to recruit and retain talent [in Texas]. This is why pregnant women from other states are hesitant to travel to Texas for business meetings. This is why conferences are moving their events to other states. This is why doctors are leaving the state."
What actions can companies take in this environment?
1. Continue to Mitigate Harm on the Workforce
Revisit practices to support pregnant employees who travel for work to states where abortion is illegal and may need to access emergency care.
Close the gap on abortion access for workers who may not be eligible for regular benefits, such as hourly workers, contractors, and populations within the workforce already facing barriers to healthcare and financial security.
Communicate the benefits and other programs available to help workers access time-sensitive and confidential healthcare inclusive of reproductive healthcare as well as LGBTQ+ care.
The Pro Repro Playbook provides free guidance to companies on developing and implementing benefits to support the reproductive health of their employees.
At the national level, support codifying abortion access and let members of Congress know that employers oppose national bans. Employers can make the case to officeholders to support efforts to reduce barriers to reproductive healthcare as a matter of worker wellbeing as well as implications for regulatory authority, interstate travel, and commerce.
Engage officeholders about the onerous impact on employers and the chilling effect that restrictions have on the state business climate. Case examples include Indiana, South Carolina, Ohio and North Carolina.
Work in coalition with metro, state, and national business associations to counter the advancement of abortion restrictions by officeholders before proposals are advanced.
Sign amicus briefs to signal an understanding of the greater stakes. Case in point, the pharmaceutical and biotech industry took a historic stance against a targeted effort to revoke access to an FDA-approved abortion medication given the potential to overturn the regulatory framework industries rely upon. Medication abortion accounts for more than half of all abortion care in the US and is also used to manage miscarriage. Cases are still pending that will determine medication access.
Join Don’t Ban Equality, a platform that enables companies to work with industry peers across the private sector as well as other influential organizations on the workforce impact and economic costs of abortion restrictions.
3. Align Political Contributions
Align—once and for all—public positions and political influence with operational and workforce policies. Abortion access is now legislated in every state, and a company’s public and internal commitments to worker health and well-being as well as gender equity may directly contradict political contributions and influence. This contradiction will increasingly become untenable for workers, customers, and other stakeholders.
Review and update the criterion for making political contributions and test what giving preference to candidates and organizations that support abortion access could look like. Be prepared to defend your position.
Measure internally how well the company’s (and any PAC) political contributions align with stated values and public policy priorities. Publicly report out metrics measuring this alignment, and approaches to reducing misalignment.
If reallocation is not possible, commit to educating recipients of political donations on how their positions on social issues harm the workforce and business environments. Appeal to them to reprioritize their agendas.
4. Audit Corporate Matching and Workplace Giving
Do not authorize corporate matching or workplace giving for anti-abortion organizations that infringe on reproductive health access. Consider criteria for organizations that receive corporate donations, including passive tools such as matching and payroll deduction.
5. Make Abortion Access Part of Event and Office Site Selection
Some corporate travel planners and HR leaders are quietly working to address a growing set of risks to employees. Companies are enacting travel policies that restrict or are acknowledging the risks of hosting events in places where abortion is illegal or inaccessible. Increased restrictions are prompting new questions relevant to site selection, including access to care and treatment for workers facing urgent health crises, let alone new threats of invasive law enforcement action.
6. Minimize Data Collection in Products and Services
The collection of user data by companies and tracking of users’ online activity about reproductive health creates significant risks to seekers and providers of healthcare services and unnecessary reputational risk for employers. Among the key actions companies can take include:
Undertake human rights due diligence to identify risks to sexual and reproductive health that may be associated with the development or use of new or existing platforms, devices, products / product features. Companies need to consider state restrictions on reproductive health when deciding on the location of offices, data centers, or other assets that might give a state jurisdiction over the user data.
Apply best practice privacy principles, such as data minimization, purpose limitations, purpose-based data retention, and user transparency and control.
Deploy end-to-end encryption on private messaging services.
Set default privacy settings to the highest level of privacy protection. Privacy protections should be based on an opt-out model, not an opt-in model.
7. Support Civic Engagement through Voting and Elections
A touchstone of American Democracy is safe and fair elections as well as robust engagement by all communities nationwide.
Provide paid time off to vote even if it is not required in all states where the company operates. Workers shouldn’t have to choose between earning a paycheck and voting.
Recruit and recognize employees serving as poll workers and poll monitors as part of workplace volunteerism. This is fundamental to how democracy functions in America.
Engage with officeholders to express support for elections through investment and reform to meet administrative challenges.
The fall of Roe added to an already tumultuous landscape, leaving employers to navigate an increasingly complex patchwork of new and proposed restrictions. The costs of insufficient action become more tangible while the impact of this ongoing public health crisis accelerates.
BSR’s Center for Business and Social Justice works with a network of civil society partners and experts in reproductive health to provide actionable guidance to business. All BSR members can contact the Center for specific inquiries.