American companies consider their role in reproductive rights

When Senate Bill 8 went into effect in September of last year, banning abortions after about 6 weeks in Texas, Shar Dubley, then CEO of Match Group, sent a letter to his employees.

“I wanted to let you know that I am setting up a fund to ensure that if any of our Texas-based employees or a dependent becomes affected by this legislation and needs treatment outside of Texas, the fund will help to cover any additional costs incurred,” the letter reads.

Dallas-based Match Group has the world’s largest portfolio of dating apps and websites, which includes Tinder, Match.com, OkCupid and Hinge.

“We received hundreds of emails and Slack messages of support, gratitude,” said Justine Sacco, director of communications for Match Group. “People were very proud that she came forward and put something in place to protect them.”

It was just a preview of an upcoming trend. In the months that followed, the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, allowing bans on inducing abortions to take effect in multiple states. A growing list of companies now offer similar services to their employees. Major companies like Disney, Microsoft, Nike and Tesla have announced plans to help employees who must travel out of state for services and care.

Many trigger laws criminalize not only abortion, but also “aiding and abetting” in the process. Confidentiality is therefore essential. Match Group has partnered with Planned Parenthood Los Angeles so employees who need help can book all travel and appointments outside of the company.

“We have no way of knowing who used the fund. [or] how many people called the hotline,” Sacco said. “We don’t get that information.

Yet despite the gratitude and support of their employees (as well as a public that broadly supports access to abortion services), the business world still has to reckon with some long-standing corporate traditions.

“Some of these same companies are the ones that have made donations over the years to the same elected officials who sponsored and voted for these abortion bans in the first place,” said Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute of Health. reproductive.

AT&T, Citigroup, and Uber are just a few of the companies promising to pay for employee abortion-related coverage, while making donations to lawmakers who support (or even author) these restrictive laws.

Until this month, Match Group was also making donations to both political parties. But the company’s new CEO, Bernard Kim, recently suspended donations to both the Republican Attorneys General Association and the Democratic Attorneys General Association.

“It is my responsibility to understand how these donations fit into our broader lobbying activity and determine what we will do in the future,” Kim said in a recent memo to staff.

Match Group was also on a list of companies expected to attend a luxury retreat hosted by the Republican Attorneys General Association for its corporate donors in Florida earlier this month. Sacco said no one from the company was present and someone responded to the event before the company’s new policy on political donations took effect.

Miller said American companies should consider how they can realign their political influence if they really want to make a statement and support their workforces.

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“At the end of the day, listen, no one should have to travel to get an abortion,” she said. “Being dependent on the benevolence of your employer, let alone, you know, the whims of the state legislature.”

Miller said she appreciates the legal risk companies take when they make these public statements and arrangements. Earlier this month, the Texas Freedom Caucus accused the law firm Sidley Austin LLP of being “complicit in illegal abortions.” Sidley is one of the companies that has pledged to help employees who need to access out-of-state abortion care. It has offices in Dallas and Houston.

The caucus sent a letter to Sidley on July 7, warning the company to keep its records pending a lawsuit.

Even so, Miller said companies have likely weighed those costs with what could be a bigger loss.

“The reality is that businesses, communities, families – frankly, our entire economy – are going to face challenges with employee retention, particularly the potential for crowding out more women from the market. work,” she said. “We’ve seen this before with COVID; we already have a crisis in terms of what happens to women and others who become pregnant and continue pregnancies and have children.”

Brad Harrington agrees. He is the executive director of the Boston College Center for Work and Family.

“Companies are also very concerned about their brand,” he said. “With all the talk about the big quit – organizations want to be one of those places where people say, ‘This is a great place to work’ and ‘Hey, their values ​​are really aligned with ours. “”

And what about employees who do want to have children? Harrington said good wages, benefits and family leave policies are an important part of reproductive rights.

“I’m pretty sure that’s the number one concern [families] have when it comes to abortion,” he said. “How they’re going to pay for everything that goes with the birth and the recovery and the health needs of the children — when it comes to ability to fund an expanding family, businesses play a pretty big role.”

Match Group’s Justine Sacco said the company’s abortion access plan “goes hand-in-hand” with its employee benefits and family leave policies.

“Our business is helping people find love and relationships and eventually get married and start families,” she said. “I think reproductive rights are in place so that when you choose to start a family, you can also do it in a way that’s best for your children, your partner and yourself. And so all those benefits should really be thought of holistically.”

When asked if Match Group would consider moving operations to a state with less restrictive abortion laws, Sacco said they were “looking at all options” to ensure their staff felt safe. and supported. The company has nearly 400 employees in Texas alone.

“Match has been in Texas since the 90s,” she said. “But I think nothing is on the table.”

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