Access to comprehensive reproductive health care is central to gender equity and women’s full participation in the workplace. For businesses, restrictions on access to reproductive health care, including abortion, are not only at odds with stated corporate values, such as equity and inclusion, but they also affect the ability of companies to deliver on their value propositions. Access to reproductive health care, including abortion, is a workforce and economic issue.

Don’t Ban Equality with its nearly 700 signers underscores this.

Why does the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs Wade matter?

When the Court struck Roe down, 24 states had laws on the books that could outright ban or severely limit access to abortion for tens of millions of women—with dozens more pieces of legislation underway—and only 14 states had passed laws that would explicitly protect the right to abortion. Just two months later, nearly one-third of women live in a state with an abortion ban. As of late August, 16 states have abortion bans in place.

The economic losses from existing abortion restrictions, including labor force impact and earnings, already cost state economies across the nation an estimated $105 billion annually. The full methodology is here

Women who don’t have access to abortion care are three times more likely to leave the workforce. A recent study confirms that for women who were denied an abortion, there was “an increase in poverty; a decrease in employment that lasts for years; a scaling back of aspirational plans; and years spent trying to raise a child without enough money to pay for food, housing, and transportation instead of pursuing other life goals.”

Recent research by Morning Consult also underscores by a 2:1 margin, employed adults, across all demographics, would prefer to live in a state where abortion is legal and accessible. Nearly half of working adults say they are open to moving to abortion friendly states, and students are considering abortion access as they choose where to go to college and one-third of parents say they would not send their child to college in a state where abortion is illegal.

What are the implications now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned?

With Roe overturned, abortion remains legal in 20 states and District of Columbia, and there are 13 states and District of Columbia which have expanded access. In these states, the right to abortion is protected by state statutes or state constitutions, and other laws and policies have created additional access to abortion care. Moving across the spectrum, there are 12 states and the District of Columbia in the “Protected” category, meaning that the right to abortion is protected by state law but…

Abortion will likely become illegal in 24 states, impacting 41% of women across the country. Nationally, the average distance a patient would need to travel to reach a provider will be 279 miles, up from 35 miles.

Women of color as well as people in the South and Midwest will be disproportionately harmed. The anticipated restrictions are expected to have an impact in states where there are more BIPOC populations living in poverty compared to states where abortion is expected to be protected (for example, Mississippi vs. New York). 

  • States with more abortion restrictions tend to have higher maternal mortality rates and worse health care outcomes generally. 
  • The states poised to ban or severely limit abortion already tend to have limited access to health care, poor health outcomes and fewer safety net programs in place for mothers and children. These bans will further compound racial disparities in maternal health.
  • States in the middle of the country — many of which will automatically ban abortion now that Roe has been overturned — are particularly likely to have a high number of maternity care deserts.

Why should a company consider speaking out on reproductive health and access to abortion?

Increasingly, companies are developing an understanding that the workforce values abortion access and sees the issue as part of gender equity in the workplace. Companies that provide strong support for the constellation of needs facing workers that can become pregnant (including contraception + abortion coverage, maternal health care, parental leave, and more) are better positioned to attract and retain employees, build a strong pipeline of talent, and deliver on diversity and inclusion goals. These strengths can contribute to stronger bottom-line performance while helping companies prepare for increased scrutiny from stakeholders. Recent research from Lean In indicates that more senior employees and managers are more likely to consider switching jobs in light of the overturn of Roe, and women and men of color are about twice as likely to consider switching jobs as white men and women, pointing to a risk that companies that fail to protect abortion access may not only lose senior employees but also jeopardize DE&I efforts.

Notably, women of color as well as people in the South and Midwest are already disproportionately harmed by compounded economic and logistical barriers to accessing abortion care. And as access to abortion is diminished in states like Texas and elsewhere, it also has a direct impact on the availability of LGBTQ inclusive healthcare. And this law has traumatic consequences for trans and nonbinary people who are forced to carry out a pregnancy. Also as landmark court cases, such as marriage equality, rely heavily on the right to access contraception and reproductive health for precedent, diminished protections to reproductive health access are a harbinger of future restrictions on other issues companies care about.

It will be crucial for companies to use their voice and influence to address both restrictive social policies and efforts to limit voting so that avenues for countering extreme social policies through normal democratic channels are protected. Morning Consult data indicate that 67% of adults agree with companies speaking out against efforts to limit access to voting for eligible voters.

Additionally, top talent is considering abortion as they evaluate their current employers: 34 percent of younger workers are considering switching jobs due their company’s stance on abortion, and a new survey from the women’s investment platform Ellevest found that 44% of US women said they would leave their current job if their employer’s views on reproductive rights didn’t align with their own, Bloomberg reports. That number jumped to 56% for millennial women, who are the largest generational cohort in the workforce. 

This issue is perceived as divisive, why should companies engage on abortion?

Recent polling underscores broad support for reproductive health, including abortion: 

  • A Post-ABC poll finds broad agreement that women and their doctors should make decisions about abortion rather than being regulated by law. Overall, 75 percent say such decisions should be left to the woman and her doctor, including 95 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of independents, and 53 percent of Republicans. 
  • 67% of the general public agrees with Roe. Quinnipiac notes that is “one of the highest levels of support” for abortion since the pollster began asking the question in 2004. Among adults under age 30, 74% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
  • Seven in 10 Americans don’t think politicians ‘are informed enough’ about abortion to ‘create fair policies’ — a position held by majorities of both Democrats and Republicans, according to the survey of more than 20,000 adults by The 19th, a news organization focused on gender and politics, and SurveyMonkey, Politico reports.

Top talent wants reproductive health care, including abortion access, included in corporate gender equity efforts.

  • Roughly 7 in 10 respondents (69%) say access to reproductive health care, including abortion, should be part of the issues companies address when it comes to gender issues in the workplace, according to a recent poll by PerryUndem. 76 percent of women are concerned that the overturn of Roe will negatively impact women’s ability to advance in the workforce, and across political affiliations, workers under age 40 agree that access to abortion is a workplace issue. Data also suggest that many young, diverse workers would not apply for a job in a state that banned abortion, impacting workforce mobility.
  • Also in the poll by PerryUndem 68% of top talent say it’s important to them that their company take a stand on social issues, while 51% say they’d consider leaving their current job for an employer with a stronger viewpoint on social issues. Respondents were three times more likely to say they’d be disappointed if their company made a public statement but did not take action on issues related to gender equity and empowerment.
  • However, Americans are not knowledgeable about the state of abortion rights and access. The Supreme Court case has not broken through to most voters (only 19% have heard “a lot” about it). Most do not know the laws on abortion in their state. Despite elected officials in every state proposing restrictions on abortion in the past year; just 22% of those surveyed say they’ve heard about this in their own state.

The majority of consumers say Reproductive Health Care is extremely/very important 

77% of consumers consider reproductive health care (i.e., access to contraception and abortion) an important issue; 91% of Gen Z and 86% of Millennials say it is important. 7 in 10 consumers believe it is important for brands to take a stand on issues. And of those who do, 86% want brands to take a stand on reproductive health (RH). This puts RH in line with the desire for action on other social issues, such as gender equity (92%), racial justice (94%), and voting rights (92%).

More than half of Gen Z (56%) and Millennials (55%) would be more likely to buy from a brand that publicly supported RH. It’s also the case that 41% of all consumers would choose the brand that publicly supported RH over a cheaper alternative and 38% would choose the brand over their very favorite brand. Importantly, this positive reaction overwhelms the potential negative: only 8% would be less likely to buy from a brand taking this type of stance. Even among Conservatives, the “less likely” share is only 14%.

In partnership with Reproductive Justice Collective SisterSong, consumers can donate to protect reproductive freedom by shopping limited edition beauty products through the Every Body Campaign.

How can companies/employers respond following the Supreme Court decision?

(1) Mitigate the harm of restrictions by ensuring company benefits support the full spectrum of workers (even those considered part-time or hourly) and their reproductive health care needs, centering those who will face the greatest barriers to accessing care. In line with this, companies can:

  • Conduct a self-audit to identify and redress obstacles faced by workers who need to obtain abortion and other reproductive health care, including plan limitations, limitations in services offered by network providers, and the distance of providers who offer comprehensive care.
  • Develop a plan to provide abortion coverage to temp, hourly and contract workers. Many of these types of rolls are staffed by those without higher education and are women and minorities.
  • Customize coverage if self-insured, without respect to state mandates or abortion restrictions. Companies that currently extend health insurance covering abortion care should affirm their intention to continue doing so. Those that do not offer this coverage, but have the ability to do so by virtue of being self-funded, should begin to offer it.
  • Subsidize travel costs for workers (including temp and contract workers) who need to go out of state to obtain abortion care along with providing accessible paid sick leave and maintain worker privacy.
  • Establish a system for women of color to access benefits without having to approach white or male bosses, which may leave them feeling vulnerable. 

(2)Understand and engage on reproductive health public policy at the state and federal level.

  • Corporations should communicate to lawmakers that public policies that limit access to reproductive health care threaten the health and wellbeing of their workers, negatively impact the talent pool, make it more difficult to recruit workers from out of state, and alienate consumers

(3) Align political giving with workforce, equity, and ESG commitments.

  • Companies should discontinue political giving to elected officials at all levels who work to undermine access to reproductive healthcare, as well as political committees, and review criteria used in making these allocations in the 2022 cycle.

Learn more about what companies can do to take action. Access the Pro Repro Playbook, with additional actions for companies, here. For those in search of resources as they develop their own corporate policies, Rhia Ventures is tracking corporate reproductive health benefit policy responses. They have also created a resources page for employers who are navigating the post-Roe world. More ideas are also detailed in this Fast Company op-ed and this Corporate Leadership article.

Where can companies make a charitable donation to promote abortion care, and where can individuals learn more about and access abortion care?

Directories for finding abortion clinics and appointments:

For accurate information on medication abortion access via telehealth:

For support paying for abortion procedures:

Travel and lodging assistance:

Support independent abortion clinics and organizations responding to the abortion access crisis:

State-by-state breakdown of abortion rights:

How will companies’ healthcare insurance benefit[s] be impacted if/when abortion becomes illegal in various states?

Insurance falls into two types: self-insured and fully-insured. If the benefit is being offered by a self-insured plan, it can continue to insure abortion because it is regulated by the federal ERISA Act, not state regulations. If it is being covered through a fully-insured plan, it is subject to state regulation. As the Guttmacher Institute shows, some states make it harder to insure abortion, and some at the opposite end require that it be covered.

11 states have laws in effect restricting insurance coverage of abortion in all private insurance plans written in the state, including those offered through health insurance exchanges established under the ACA: “9 states permit abortion coverage beyond specified exceptions through purchase of a separate rider and payment of an additional premium.” Research conducted in 2016 by the Kaiser Family Foundation however found that no insurers were offering these waivers.

If insurance carriers start to limit their benefits due to more restrictive laws, how should employers react?

Workers will expect their companies to advocate against laws that restrict their ability to insure all types of abortion. The following resources on the business case for reproductive health help make the case why it’s in employers’ interest to expand, not restrict, access to all forms of reproductive health care. As companies look to navigate restrictive laws as these are enacted, women’s ERGs, LGBTQIA+ ERGs and other employee affinity groups can serve as strong allies. Companies can also consider taking a public stand given the recent media coverage around companies mitigating the harm of abortion restrictions, and seeking the support of investors to help accelerate the implementation of new corporate policies, such as covering the travel cost for out-of-state abortion care, to safeguard access to abortion care. Johnny C. Taylor Jr., president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), also suggests companies can remove barriers to abortion care by amending their benefits policies.

Who is most impacted by state-level abortion restrictions and Supreme Court decisions?

All pregnant people and their families, but especially Black women and Latinas due to structural economic barriers leading to lower economic well-being, are disproportionately affected by abortion restrictions. Economists provide clear evidence that overturning Roe would prevent large numbers of women experiencing unintended pregnancies—many of whom are low-income and financially vulnerable mothers—from obtaining desired abortions.

Abortion restrictions have a documented negative economic impact on states and workers. And the business case for access to reproductive health is as important as ever. 

Companies will have a harder time recruiting top talent as increasingly mobile college-educated talent considers what restrictions signal about the culture of a state. For current and prospective employees and customers—working moms, sisters, cousins, and friends among others—their healthcare access will be harmed and their economic stability will be impaired. Companies as employers are having to navigate a confusing landscape of providing support to workers and balancing legal vulnerability and HR implications. 

In Texas, large majorities of top talent: 

  • Support abortion access and consider the issue part of gender equity in the workplace
  • Two-thirds say the Texas ban would discourage them from working in the state
  • 64% say they would not apply for a job in a state that passed a ban like Texas
  • About half say they would consider moving out-of-state if their lawmakers passed a similar ban

In Florida:

  • Large majorities of top talent support abortion access and consider the issue part of gender equity in the workplace
  • The economy and health care are the most pressing issues for top talent in Florida. Restricting or banning abortion falls to the bottom of a list of issues
  • Nearly half of Florida women in the survey (45%) say they’d consider moving out of the state if their lawmakers passed a similar ban to Texas
  • Abortion restrictions may mobilize top talent in Florida against anti-abortion elected officials
  • 59% say they are more likely to vote against an elected official if he or she tries to restrict or ban abortion, including 67% of women

In Ohio:

  • Large majorities of top talent support abortion access and consider the issue part of gender equity in the workplace
  • 55% of Ohioans, and 62% of Ohio women, say the Texas ban would discourage them from taking a job in Texas 
  • 53% of Ohioans, and 62% of Ohio women say they would not apply for a job in a state that passed a ban like Texas 
  • About 40% of Ohioans, including 45% of Ohio women, say they would consider moving out-of-state if their lawmakers passed a similar ban 

How will people get the care they need? 

In the SCOTUS case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state of Mississippi sought to make the case that women have progressed enough economically since the 1970s to make abortion unnecessary. Before Roe v. Wade, “there was little support for women who wanted a full family life and a successful career,” Mississippi’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch, said in a statement summarizing a brief filed to the court. Now, parental leave, flexible work setups, and other policies mean that “women have carved their own way to achieving a better balance for success in their professional and personal lives,” she wrote. The New York Times’ Dealbook considered this argument and concluded that while some progress has been made, the idea that the benefits Mississippi describes are available to most women is still a stretch.

Providers of comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion, go further and liken providing services in states with draconian laws to providing care in a war zone. Patients go to extraordinary lengths to get the procedure—traveling hundreds of miles, sleeping in cars, figuring out childcare, choosing between food and healthcare. Patients are confused and worried already as providers navigate constant battles to keep doors open. Already providers fly in from out of state to deliver care where health care capacity is limited. Even flight delays cause appointment delays—yet patients are deeply appreciative for getting the care they need.

ABC News profiles Dr. Shelly Tien, one of 50 or so doctors who regularly travel to 20 states to perform abortions for patients who would otherwise not have access to the essential procedure. The WSJ talks to abortion providers in Illinois, which are preparing for a surge in patients from surrounding states with trigger laws that could spring into place after if Roe is overturned. 

No patient should have to travel hours across a state or across state lines, in addition to other logistical burdens as a result of unnecessary,  dangerous, and unconstitutional healthcare restrictions. Since the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the average American could have to travel 125-200 miles to reach an abortion provider, compared to the current average of 25 miles. 

How does lack of abortion access impact people financially and economically? 

Mississippi has made the case that women have progressed enough economically since the 1970s to make abortion unnecessary. Before Roe v. Wade, “there was little support for women who wanted a full family life and a successful career,” Mississippi’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch, said in a statement summarizing a brief filed to the court. Now, parental leave, flexible work setups, and other policies mean that “women have carved their own way to achieving a better balance for success in their professional and personal lives,” she wrote. The New York Times’ Dealbook considered this argument and concluded that while some progress has been made, the idea that the benefits Mississippi describes are available to most women is still a stretch.

Restricting, or outright eliminating, abortion access by overturning Roe v. Wade would diminish women’s personal and economic lives, as well as the lives of their families. Economists provide clear evidence that overturning Roe would prevent large numbers of women experiencing unintended pregnancies—many of whom are low-income and financially vulnerable mothers—from obtaining desired abortions. Restricting, or outright eliminating, that access by overturning Roe v. Wade would diminish women’s personal and economic lives, as well as the lives of their families.

These restrictions have a documented negative economic impact on states and workers. And the business case for access to reproductive health is as important as ever. 

Contact: For questions, updates, or specific corporate-facing needs, feel free to contact Susan McPherson at McPherson Strategies.