Abortion ruling: US companies reach out to women employees
Companies in the United States, including Walt Disney Co. and Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc., have stated that they will reimburse employees' fees if they need to travel for abortion services, as per Reuters. This comes following the US Supreme Court's decision to reverse a landmark 1973 decision that acknowledged a woman's constitutional right to abortion on Friday.
- Reproductive rights in the US were witnessing an increasing threat of late with several states seeking stricter restrictions, with others wanting a complete ban on abortions after six weeks.
- Many women don't even know if they're pregnant before six weeks.
- The ruling was made possible by the nomination of three conservative judges by former President Donald Trump: Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.
Following the verdict, several states are anticipated to severely limit or prohibit abortions, making it impossible for women to terminate pregnancies. In Oklahoma, for example, a statute set to take effect in August prohibits abortion except in medical emergencies and penalizes doctors who disobey the law. New York and Maryland are two states that provide abortion protections.
Disney has informed its employees on Friday that it remains committed to providing comprehensive access to quality healthcare to them, including abortions wherever they want to avail the services, the company's spokesperson told Reuters. Disney also said the company's benefits would cover the cost of employees who need to travel to another location to access care, including obtaining an abortion.
According to Meta, Facebook's owner, the company would compensate employees' travel expenses for out-of-state reproductive care. However, the company was also considering how best to proceed in light of the legal complications involved. Meanwhile, Meta attempted to limit internal debate over the verdict. Moderators on its Workplace forum removed postings about abortion, citing a "respectful communications" guideline that prohibits employees from discussing political issues.
Dick's Sporting Goods has promised that if abortion was not accessible locally, the company would pay up to $4,000 in travel expenses for workers, family members, and a support person, Reuters quoted its Chief Executive Lauren Hobart as saying. Ride-hailing company Lyft said it would legally shield drivers in abortion cases, saying it would expand its recent policy following the SC order.
Companies that pay for abortion-related travel may risk legal action from anti-abortion groups and Republican-led states, as well as criminal penalties. According to legal experts, companies may face charges that their policies violate state laws prohibiting, enabling, or aiding and abetting abortions.
In May, a draft of the Supreme Court's abortion judgment was leaked. Many other firms, including Yelp, Microsoft Corporation, and Tesla, announced at the time that they would assist pay the expense of travel for employees seeking reproductive treatments. Apple also reiterated its support for staff, stating that its healthcare covered travel for therapies not accessible locally.
According to Yelp co-founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, the verdict "puts women's health in jeopardy, denies them their human rights, and threatens to dismantle the progress we've made toward gender equality in the workplace since Roe." Alaska Air Group said that it is "reimbursing travel for certain medical procedures and treatments if they are not available where you live."
Johnson & Johnson, online dating services OkCupid and Bumble Inc., Netflix Inc., and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are among the other corporations that provide the perk. OkCupid delivered in-app messaging to clients in 26 states that are likely to outlaw abortion, preparing for a political battle. "Act now by calling your representatives and demanding freedom and choice," the message reads.
In the 1973 Roe vs Wade case, the US Supreme Court ruled that access to abortion is a woman's constitutional right. Moreover, in Planned Parenthood vs Casey (1992), the top court upheld the right to have an abortion that was established in the Roe vs Wade ruling until the fetus is viable outside the womb, which is around 22 to 24 weeks of gestation.