With so-called “trigger laws” either in effect or being contemplated in more than two dozen states in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, a significant number of women seeking reproductive health care – including abortions – may end up having to travel to another state to seek it.
And if early reports are any indication, a significant number of employers are willing to cover their travel expenses while they get it.
At least 13 states already have such trigger laws – banning most abortions either immediately or within a short period of time – and another 13 states are reportedly considering such laws following the SCOTUS decision, which left abortion rights up to states to decide.
The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights research group, said states considering laws include Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming, which just passed its trigger law in April.
Five other states – Alabama, Arizona, Michigan, West Virginia and Wisconsin – still have an abortion ban on the books from before Roe v. Wade that will go into effect now that the 1973 landmark law is overturned, barring legal challenges.
A state judge in Louisiana on Monday blocked three state laws that would ban virtually all abortions in that state, Fox News reported. Responding to a lawsuit from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a judge issued a temporary injunction against a 1931 abortion ban, and in Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers wants that state’s 1849 state law making abortion a felony repealed.
While Friday’s SCOTUS ruling sent pro-choice supporters into the streets for rallies around the country, their voices were apparently being heard in board rooms across a variety of industries.
That support actually began coming weeks ago, after a leaked memo from the Supreme Court revealed a draft opinion on the ruling. Companies are offering to cover travel expenses for employees seeking abortions in states where it is still legal.
In a letter to Starbucks partners, Sara Kelly, acting executive vice president, Partner Resources for Starbucks, said the company “will always ensure you have access to quality healthcare.”
“Even though we have prepared for this scenario, personally and as a company, I know this decision leaves many of you disheartened or in shock,” the letter said. “We all need to process this in our own way, and as you do, here is what I want you to know: no matter where you live, or what you believe, we will always ensure you have access to quality healthcare. And when legislative actions impact your access to healthcare, we will work on ways to make you feel supported.”
Starbucks, Kelly wrote, has provided partners enrolled in Starbucks healthcare plan a medical travel reimbursement benefit to access an abortion, and coming soon, access to gender-affirming care.
“The impacts of this decision are complex and our Starbucks Advocates are dedicated to working directly with partners year-round with questions about healthcare coverage,” Kelly wrote. “They are a knowledgeable resource and a free and confidential service for our partners.”
Other companies saying they would cover expenses for employees who have to travel for an abortion, include:
“It’s paramount that all DoorDash employees and their dependents covered on our health plans have access to safe, timely healthcare. This is one of our guiding principles as an employer,” a DoorDash spokesperson told MarketWatch. “Because safe abortion procedures may become severely limited in more states, DoorDash will cover certain travel-related expenses for employees who face new barriers to access and need to travel out of state for abortion-related care.”
Then on Friday, after the Supreme Court decision was handed down, published reports had even more companies saying they would cover travel costs, including:
- Dick’s Sporting Goods
- Conde Nast
“I think it will become increasingly common for employers to have some sort of health care access policies in place to help employees travel where needed to obtain medical care,” Meredith Kirshenbaum, an attorney with Goldberg Kohn in Chicago, told the Society for Human Resource Management.
Several major companies, including Amazon, Citigroup, Apple and Levi Strauss, have announced that they will cover abortion-related travel expenses.
Timothy Collins, an attorney with Duane Morris in Philadelphia, told SHRM that “travel expenses should be paid through the employer’s group health plan so as not to inadvertently create a new, stand-alone group health plan.”
He said employers that opt to provide abortion-related travel expenses “will want to be clear in what situations travel expenses will be paid.”
For example, will such expenses be paid only for employees residing in states where abortions become unlawful? Is travel limited to the closest state that allows abortions to remain lawful? “Employers will want to think about these issues and clearly document their travel expense payment policy,” he said.
Isabella Casillas Guzman, head of the U.S. Small Business Association, said the SCOTUS ruling “turns back the clock … jeopardizing the civil liberties of millions of women” in a way that creates “ripple effects across … our economy.”
“Every person deserves the opportunity to live up to their full potential – and deciding when to start a family is critically important to preserve that right, particularly for women entrepreneurs pursuing the American dream of business ownership,” Guzman said in a statement. “Ensuring women have a chance and a choice to pursue opportunity advances the prosperity and stability of our nation.”