More employers are taking steps to show that supporting employees in abortion care is a workplace issue.
Yelp is the latest company to announce it will cover costs for employees and their spouses who must travel out of state to access abortion care, the New York Times reports, in response to the Texas law that bans the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy.
Under the policy, Yelp employees will submit travel receipts directly to their health insurance company for reimbursement "so no one else at Yelp is ever going to know who is accessing this, or how or when," Miriam Warren, the company's chief diversity officer, told the Times.
Yelp has more than 4,000 employees, with 200 in Texas, though the company says the benefit extends to workers in other states with restricted abortion access. On Tuesday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law that makes it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine, in a continued effort among Republican-led states to scale back abortion rights.
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Company policies in support of abortion access are welcome but a "small drop in the bucket," says Leila Abolfazli, the director of federal reproductive rights for the National Women's Law Center.
"It's important for companies to recognize that abortion is among the health care their workers may need," Abolfazli says. "The health and well-being of workers is essential to any company in order to attract workers, retain workers and show you're supportive of them."
Yelp's policy change follows news that Citigroup will cover expenses, such as airfare and lodging, for employees in places like Texas who must travel to receive an abortion, Bloomberg reports. The banking giant has roughly 65,000 U.S. employees, 8,500 of whom live in Texas. Apple, which is growing its presence in Austin, has also said its health insurance provider will cover travel and medical costs for employees to obtain an abortion.
Other businesses have responded to the Texas law since it took effect September 1. Lyft and Uber offered to pay legal fees for drivers sued for aiding or abetting an abortion under the law, and Bumble and Match Group's CEO set up relief funds for people seeking abortions in the state.
Some employers, like in Pittsburgh and Portland, are supporting employees by providing paid time off to recover from the procedure.
Changing HR policies is important, as is reminding staff they can't be discriminated against for using the benefit, Abolfazli says. However, she adds, "we cannot piecemeal our way out of the abortion crisis we're about to face in this country."
In December, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a Mississippi case that directly challenges the right to abortion established by the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 and reaffirmed by the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision in 1992. The court, which holds a 6-3 conservative majority, is expected to make a decision in June.
Abolfazli says employers should look at how changing abortion laws make it difficult to operate in certain states. Roughly half of U.S. states already have laws restricting abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-reproductive rights research group.
Big corporations have "major political muscle," Abolfazli says, and oftentimes "more weight than anyone else to call local lawmakers and say, 'this makes it difficult to operate in the state.'"
Some businesses, including Salesforce, have gone so far as to offer to relocate employees living in states with abortion bans. "We're getting to a place where people have different rights depending on where they live," Abolfazli says. "Bosses are not prepared for the dramatic change that's going to happen in the country, and what it means for workers living in those places."
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