Companies fill the void as states restrict abortion rights
The jolting leak of a Supreme Court draft overturning the right to abortion could spur more companies to quietly subsidize employees who need to travel for the procedure.
“There’s still a lot of stigma around abortion — it’s not something employees feel comfortable requiring of their employers,” Alina Salganicoff, senior vice president and director of Women’s Health Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told CBS MoneyWatch. “Some may make the decision to do this but not announce it,” she added of covering travel and related costs for employees without nearby options.
The initial opinion signed by Justice Samuel Alito and published by Politico late Monday was reportedly circulated among the justices in February, and is still subject to change. It indicated that a majority of justices voted to strike down Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling legalizing a woman’s choice to have an abortion.
Twenty-six states are “certain or likely” to ban abortion if the high court justices strike down Roe v. Wade, meaning many would have to travel long distances to get the procedure, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that studies sexual and reproductive health and rights. The scenario is already in play in parts of the country.
Texas now bans most abortions after six weeks, effectively outlawing it in the state. The number of residents who traveled for abortions to Planned Parenthood centers in nearby states surged after the law took effect in September 2021, according to the organization.
“In the first four months that this law was in effect, we saw an 800% increase in folks from Texas going to neighboring states and getting the care that they needed; so this is really a crisis situation,” Dr. Bhavik Kumar of Planned Parenthood Center for Choice in Houston, said in a March 1 statement.
The Supreme Court’s stance on abortion rights could further pressure on companies, some of which have recently moved to lessen the potential hurdles to employees in need of reproductive health care.
That said, it’s not clear how many companies cover the roughly $600 cost of an abortion in the first place, according to Salganicoff. Kaiser asked companies in 2019 whether they’d specifically requested their insurer exclude abortion coverage, and about 10% said they had asked.
There are 11 states that ban abortion coverage in state-regulated plans, but the prohibition does not apply to self-funded plans, she noted.
Citigroup, for instance, added the travel benefit to its workplace offerings after several states enacted restrictive reproductive health care laws. “In response to changes in reproductive health care laws in certain states in the U.S., beginning in 2022 we provide travel benefits to facilitate access to adequate resources,” the bank stated in a regulatory filing on March 15.
Amazon on Monday told its U.S. workers it would reimburse up to $4,000 in travel costs for medical procedures, including abortions.
“Amazon has expanded the travel and lodging benefit to cover travel for a number of non-life threatening conditions if a provider is not available within 100 miles of an employee’s home,” an Amazon spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch in an email. The policy is retroactive to January 1 for employees and their dependents, Reuters reported.
Citi’s and Amazon’s new policies are similar to those of other companies, including Apple, Bumble, Levi’s and Hewlett Packard, that help cover travel expenses for medical procedures not available in a worker’s home state.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff in September said the company would help employees who wanted to leave Texas because of the state’s abortion restrictions. And the chief executive of Dallas-based Match Group, Shar Dubey, set up a fund to help any of the company’s Texas workers who may need to travel out of state for the procedure.
“It is unclear how job seekers will respond to offers that require them to relocate to restrictive states, even with the offer to pay for travel to abortion care; there has not been a great deal of research on this topic and ‘the great resignation’ suggests that workers are more attuned to quality of life issues than in the past,” emailed Danielle Bessett, associate professor of sociology at the University of Concinnati.
“States with the highest number of abortion restrictions tend to have the worst women and children’s health outcomes; they also have fewer policies that would advance the health and well-being of families,” wrote Bessett, citing research by Ibis Reproductive Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights.