The fall of Roe v. Wade in 2022 reinforced that abortion access is a workforce and economic issue. Thousands of companies, from the Fortune 500 to small businesses, acted in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision, demonstrating that abortion access is about the health, safety, and well-being of workers as well as part of gender equity in the workplace.
Twenty-four states now have laws on the books that could outright ban or severely limit access to abortion for tens of millions of women, and only 14 states have passed laws that would explicitly protect the right to abortion since Roe fell. Meanwhile, bellwether ballot initiatives last year across six states, including Kansas, Kentucky, and Michigan, affirm that most voters want decisions about healthcare to remain between patients and providers.
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 as well. According to data from Catalyst, one in three employees is considering leaving their job due to their employer’s disappointing response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Stories are coming out about the severe impact and consequences of the overturn of Roe and state abortion restrictions on women and their families. In Louisiana, two emergency rooms turned a mom away when she was experiencing a miscarriage; a former South Carolina beauty queen and her husband have become unlikely abortion access advocates; and in Texas, a woman and her partner may not be able to have children because of delays and dangerous complications to her obstetric care. Notably, maternal and infant death rates are already higher in states that ban or restrict abortion despite the business case for stronger health care coverage and benefits.
In this context, access to medication abortion is more important than ever. According to new 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.
What actions can companies take in 2023 given the post-Roe reality in America?
1. Continue to Mitigate Harm on the Workforce
- Audit the availability of abortion care within provider networks through your medical plans in all the states in which you have a footprint, including remote workers. Ensure that employees can go out of network at no added cost, if necessary, and that travel costs are covered in addition to paid sick leave. Companies can also revisit practices to support pregnant workers who travel to states where abortion is illegal and may need to access care in emergencies.
- Ensure programs actually close the gap on abortion access for workers who may not be eligible for regular benefits, such as hourly workers, contractors, and populations within your workforce that already face barriers to healthcare and financial security.
- Strengthen your reproductive health benefits to go beyond the minimum requirements imposed by the Affordable Care Act when it comes to contraception, health screenings, and other prevention measures.
- Communicate with your workforce about the benefits and other programs available to help them access time-sensitive and confidential healthcare.
The Pro Repro Playbook provides free guidance to companies on developing and implementing benefits to support the reproductive health of their employees. Download a copy here.
- At the national level, support codifying abortion access and let members of Congress know that employers oppose national abortion bans. Additionally, employers can make the case to officeholders to support efforts that reduce barriers to reproductive healthcare as a matter of worker wellbeing as well as implications on regulatory authority, interstate travel and commerce.
- As many states will see additional abortion restrictions introduced in legislatures across the country, companies can contact officeholders about the onerous impact on employers and the chilling effect that restrictions have on the state business climate. Additionally, restrictions on access to FDA-approved medication for abortion may be especially problematic and chaotic for employers. Medication abortion accounts for more than half of all abortion care in the US and is also used to manage miscarriage. It is approved by the FDA. In November 2022, the abortion opponents who helped to overturn Roe v. Wade filed a lawsuit in the Northern District Court in Texas, asking a federal judge to undo decades-old approval of mifepristone for medication abortion and miscarriage management. Learn more about the medication abortion rulings and how companies can respond.
- Use your voice in metro, state, and national business associations to counter the advancement of abortion restrictions by officeholders.
- 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 employees, customers, and other stakeholders.
- Review 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.
- If reallocation is not possible, commit to educating recipients of political donations on how their positions on social issues harm your 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
- Companies are enacting travel policies that restrict 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.
- Minimize the collection and storage of user data, particularly data about reproductive health.
- Take a human rights-based approach to respond to government or law enforcement requests for user data. Using the Global Network Initiative Principles as a starting point, respond to law enforcement requests in ways that protect user rights.
The fall of Roe was just the beginning of a new and tumultuous landscape in 2023, leaving employers to navigate an increasingly complex patchwork of new and proposed restrictions. Access to abortion is part of gender equity; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and the operational considerations that inform worker safety and well-being. The costs of inaction or insufficient action are increasing.
BSR’s Center for Business and Social Justice works with a network of civil society partners and experts in reproductive health to provide tangible guidance to business. All BSR members can contact the Center for specific inquiries.