The overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court last month has left people around the world with strong feelings about reproductive rights, regardless of which side of the decision they are on.
During a webinar titled “Ensuring Reproductive Health: What Are Companies Doing,” presented by Rutgers University’s Center for Women in Business, attendees wrote how they feel about the decision, which appeared in a word cloud on the screen. Those words included disgusted, enraged, angry, disappointed and outraged, just to name a few.
Yana van der Meulen Rodgers, a professor in the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Rutgers University and Faculty Director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers, laid out the economic implications of abortion bans and restrictions from a microeconomic aspect, a mesoeconomic aspect and a macroeconomic aspect, showing the implications for local economies in states with and without abortion bans.
Microeconomic: The cost of not having access to abortion services and having to travel hundreds of miles to states that have services. Abortion seekers will have to pay for travel costs, hotel costs and childcare costs if they have children.
Mesoeconomic: The cost to state governments and health services. If more people are getting unsafe abortions or incomplete abortions with medications, that will increase costs for healthcare services to treat unsafe abortions. And in states that have abortion services, more staff may be needed to meet the increased demand.
Macroeconomic: Research shows that women who have access to abortion services invest more in their own education and participate in the workforce more, which increases overall GDP.
The benefits of reproductive care to employees, communities and the economy showcase why it is important for companies to be vocal about their support of abortion rights and truly help employees with abortion care.
Nadia Khamis, Director of Corporate Engagement at Planned Parenthood, said the organization has seen corporations react to the Supreme Court decision in a number of ways. Some have been slow to publicly support abortion rights while others have said they look at abortion care as a healthcare issue and have moved to cover and extend the benefits of their workforce to ensure abortion protections.
“We saw a lot of companies that were not satisfied with just covering workers at their headquarters who were on full-time contracts and really wanting to ensure that their hourly workers [and] people across their supply chain could access services,” she said. “They started establishing community health funds and thinking about emergency relief funds and other ways that they could provide financial grants outright in complement to their healthcare services.”
It’s important for companies that offer these benefits to develop communication strategies to get the word out to their workforce and to potential hires, Khamis said. This is especially important when hiring people from younger generations as research shows that the majority of younger people support abortion rights and want to work for companies that also do.
Companies have come out in support of covering travel assistance for employees, but some have gone beyond and say they will support relocating employees to states where they can access abortion rights. A few have talked about changing corporate headquarters to states that have abortion access. These companies include Google, Patagonia and Duolingo.
Khamis said that companies like Patagonia that have “been more progressive from the outset” and have aligned with issues that intersect with reproductive rights, from LGBTQ+ rights to gender equality to race equity are “starting to realize the importance of being more externally facing about why this issue matters to them and how it impacts their business, but also their consumers and communities.”
When it comes to companies helping their employees and their communities, the bottom line is that they need to show their support, help employees access abortions and help them understand their healthcare benefits.
Khamis and Rodgers added that employees can get involved by calling state lawmakers, voting and helping people register to vote and by donating to organizations like Planned Parenthood that offer healthcare to people.
“Making donations to Planned Parenthood is another excellent way to take immediate action,” Rodgers said. “Supporting Planned Parenthood would probably be one of the most useful ways to spend our personal dollars in terms of contributing to this effort to protect abortion services.”