Big employers say they'll pay for abortion travel after Roe reversal

Bellwether corporations said they would bankroll travel for workers who would need access to safe, legal abortions and other procedures. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Some of the most recognised companies in the United States have indicated that they will extend coverage of out-of-state medical care, decisions that will cover more than a million employees after the Supreme Court overturned a half-century-old ruling that protected abortion rights.

Bellwether corporations from the worlds of finance, media, technology and health care said they would bankroll travel for workers who would need access to safe, legal abortions and other procedures.

The court's decision overturned a decades-old precedent that backers said reshaped the modern economy by increasing opportunities for women.

JPMorgan Chase & Co, the largest bank in the US, will pay for its employees to travel to another state if needed to obtain a legal abortion, according to information sent to all its US employees this month. The benefit will go into effect July 1.

Meta Platforms, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, will reimburse travel expenses, "to the extent permitted by law, for employees who will need them to access out-of-state health care and reproductive services", according to a spokesperson.

The social-networking giant said it was assessing how to do that, "given the legal complexities involved".

Walt Disney, which has been mired in disputes with conservative leaders over its support for LGBTQ people, said it would cover the cost of travel for employees who could not access the care they needed in their state.

Health-care companies CVS Health and Biogen also said they were making out-of-state medical care, including abortion, accessible for their employees.

CVS had its plans in place prior to Friday's (June 24) decision, a spokesman said.

The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that enshrined the choice to terminate a pregnancy as a constitutional right, is expected to lead to abortion curbs in more than half of US states, with several already having passed restrictive new laws that would be triggered by the reversal of Roe.

In much the same manner that the decision will create disparities in access to abortion, it isn't clear that all employers will follow in the footsteps of the larger companies pledging expanded benefits.

When asked by the consultancy Gartner in late May what new policies they might adopt if Roe was overturned, 60 per cent of human-resources executives said they would not add anything.

Fewer than 10 per cent said they would pay for some or all of their employees' travel costs to get to a reproductive-care facility, or provide paid time-off for procedures.

Offering to pay for care received far from home lets companies show support for abortion rights without taking more extreme steps like relocating workers and offices or altering political donations.

However, the calculus is fraught. While likely to comfort some workers, the approach could open businesses to criticism or retribution from abortion opponents in states that adopt restrictions.

"This is the hottest of hot potatoes," said Ms Davia Temin, founder of New York crisis consultancy Temin and Co. "Because companies are commenting on social issues more than ever before, the need to do the same around abortion is swirling through corporate America."

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