Abortion: US companies are getting involved, but not without risk

Some American companies took a stand on the repeal of abortion rights on Friday, notably by promising their employees to reimburse them for necessary medical expenses, but the issue is thorny given potential legal risks, even a political backlash.

The Supreme Court ruling “endangers women’s health, disenfranchises them and threatens to reverse the progress we’ve made on gender equality in the workplace” since the 1973 ruling guaranteed access to abortion, the head of the agency responded Website Yelp, Jeremy Stoppelman.

“Business leaders must speak up now and ask Congress” to enshrine this principle in law, he added on Twitter.

Few large companies condemned the Supreme Court decision so abruptly.

On the other hand, several have pledged to ensure their employees have access to an abortion wherever they work, by reimbursement of travel expenses to a state where the medical procedure is legal, if necessary.

Some companies like Yelp and Airbnb had already taken the plunge in September, after a law came into force in Texas that bans all abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected on an ultrasound.

Gradually, others like Citigroup, Tesla or Amazon changed the health insurance for their employees. Another wave, including Starbucks, Levi Strauss and JPMorgan Chase, followed after the press announced in early May the possible reversal of the Supreme Court on the abortion issue.

Some joined them on Friday, like Disney, which sent a memo to its employees reassuring them that the company was committed to giving them access to quality care “no matter where they live,” they said Chain CNBC News.

Many societies have remained silent. This does not mean that they do not offer the same accommodations in their health insurance.

But speaking out publicly is a double-edged sword, notes Maurice Schweitzer, a professor at Wharton University in Pennsylvania.

“On the one hand, they want to get involved, set a good example, because it’s important for their employees, especially in the tech field,” he explains.

On immigration, LBGTQ rights, guns, racism… several big bosses have chosen to speak out publicly. But when it comes to abortion, “the legal landscape will change,” recalls Mr. Schweitzer.

Lyft, for example, which has agreed to pay the legal fees of drivers who are sued for taking a woman to another state for an abortion, “could also be sued.” Just like companies changing their health insurance.

Bosses are also considering Disney’s recent disappointment in Florida.

The company initially decided not to oppose a law banning the teaching of subjects related to sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary schools.

Urged by staff, boss Bob Chapek eventually openly criticized the text, angering conservative Gov. Ron DeSantis and causing the Disney World theme park to be stripped of favorable administrative status in that state for years.

At the end, Mr. Schweitzer analyzes the case of “frustrated employees who blame the company for not speaking up earlier” and “cost money because of the political reaction”.

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