The Supreme Court’s ruling Friday overturning Roe v. Wade and eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion puts unprecedented pressure on businesses to lead in reproductive rights, similar to how they’ve had to step up on mental health, caregiving, and racial justice in earnest over the past few years.
As companies prepare to navigate a post-Roe America, we talked to experts who have studied corporate action on societal issues about what comes next. Here is the reaction of Erika Seth Davies, CEO of Rhia Ventures, a social-impact investment firm focused on reproductive health:
Making fear-based decisions is generally not a good idea. The idea that being attacked or people saying mean things [about you] is worse than not being able to access healthcare is not an effective case.
What companies can and should do at this moment is affirm that they see and support women in a very fundamental way. That includes starting from the inside: making sure that they’re ensuring coverage and abortion access for any reason, making sure they have policies in place if they have operations or employees in states where it’s about to be severely limited or made inaccessible, providing travel vouchers or subsidizing travel. They definitely need to make sure employees who would like to relocate are able to do so, and that if you have employees that need abortion care, that they’re supported with adequate paid time off. That’s the most tactical thing they can do right now, is [ask]: How do we take care of our workforce?
Extending beyond that, do they have contraception coverage beyond Affordable Care Act requirements? This is part of a spectrum of reproductive healthcare. Comprehensively, what does it look like for your company to support women and birthing people? Are you contacting your policymakers on a state and federal level to say that this cannot stand? There are things companies can do before they get to whether they’re going to make a public statement, but that’s incredibly important, because it’s signaling to the workforce and people in their communities that 50 years of precedent that was believed to have been settled now being overturned is not in the best interest of their workforce. Seventy percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal.
I’m not in the decision-making position within a corporation to say what they can or cannot withstand, but practically speaking, they have a role to play here in making sore their employees have access to basic healthcare inclusive of abortion care, because so much of coverage in this country comes from employers. That’s where we are: Corporate responsibility is now the backstop in terms of access to abortion care. It’s not a comfortable position for companies or women to be in, but this is where we are. I don’t know how any corporate leadership team or board of directors that’s uttered a statement on gender or racial equity can remain silent on this and still expect to be taken seriously.
Reposition this as healthcare, and just reiterate that over and over again, as a company that ensures access to healthcare for employees: “This is part of that healthcare. It is our position and our policy to provide more healthcare, not less, to ensure people get what they need.” So reframing the conversation is one thing I would recommend, as an affirmation of support for the workforce.