A rally for abortion rights in Texas in Houston on May 7. Texas has a so-called trigger law on the books that will immediately ban abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, allowing individual states to decide whether to make the procedure legal. Thirteen states — Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming — already have “trigger laws” that will automatically ban abortion if Roe is overturned.

However, a March survey by Morning Consult suggests that working adults largely want to live in states where abortion is legal. This could create a problem for companies that operate in states with trigger laws.

The survey also suggests that working adults are already taking state laws that govern social policies into consideration when they’re contemplating relocating to another state for a job. Nearly all adults surveyed who’d accepted a professional opportunity in the past two years that required them to relocate said they considered social policies in their decision to move. By a 2:1 margin, employed adults said they would prefer to live in a state where abortion is legal and accessible than where it is illegal.

“If Roe is overturned and the decision is left to the states, there will be a lot of chaos and uncertainty with respect to large companies that have thousands of employees across many states,” Sabrina Shaheen Cronin, a family law attorney, told Insider.

These companies must now determine how to support and protect the rights of employees who live in trigger states.

How employers can help preserve employee rights

Navigating differing state benefits laws is nothing new for companies. Cronin said that when it comes to guaranteeing equal access to abortion services, employers could adopt the same mindset they use when developing benefits policies for parental leave, infertility treatments, and even some basic healthcare coverage.

For instance, many large companies that employ workers in multiple states provide benefits that cover the costs of infertility treatments — something required in 17 states, including California and Arkansas — even if other employees live in states that don’t mandate that coverage, Cronin said. Others provide paid parental leave to employees in states that don’t mandate paid leave.

Before 2015, when the Supreme Court struck down state bans on marriages of same-sex couples in Obergefell v. Hodges, many employers offered spousal benefits to same-sex spouses of employees even if the state they were living in didn’t recognize their marriage.

Now a handful of companies, including Amazon, Yelp, and Citigroup, are responding to trigger laws by announcing plans to pay for employees’ travel expenses to seek medical treatments including abortion.

Dirk Doebler, the CEO of Parento, a company that helps businesses pay for their employees’ parental leave, said he expects other corporations will follow suit if Roe is overturned, comparing employers’ potential responses to the 2020 reckoning following the police killing of George Floyd.

“We fully anticipate this will be similar to the aftereffects … with companies investing more heavily in addressing broader racial equity,” he said, predicting that companies would “accelerate” their efforts to use their benefits policies to support women specifically and parents more broadly.

“Employees are not going to rely on public institutions for what they’re looking for with regards to equality,” Doebler added. “They’re going to be looking for companies that affirm this and offset it with additional policies that support them and equal rights.”

Employee inequality in a post-Roe America

However, if Roe is overturned, it will further inequality, especially in trigger-law states, Doebler said.

“Those who have the means to work remotely and demand it are likely to do so … or even just travel to that other state to have the procedure done,” he said. But he added that there will remain workers “who can’t afford to travel, can’t afford to take time off, can’t afford to move to another state and will have to carry a pregnancy to term without access to paid parental leave or sufficient daycare.”

Amazon, which has routinely faced criticism of its treatment of warehouse workers, has said its policy to help pay for travel for medical procedures not available in an employee’s home state (including certain gene therapies and gender-affirming care) would apply to everyone on its health-insurance plans across warehouses and corporate offices.

Leaders at Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics are also struggling to address the dichotomy, Brandi Halls, its chief ethics officer, told Insider. She said that if Roe is overturned, more than 500 staff members at 72 shops would immediately lose their right to a safe and legal abortion — and “not everyone has the option to relocate, especially if they have a retail job.”

On May 14, a day of nationwide protests against abortion bans, Lush posted signs in its US stores that read, “Today and every day we support the right for safe and legal abortion for all.”

Halls said Lush is trying to accommodate all staffers who want to move out of trigger-law states and is trying to determine how to best support them, whether that’s providing financial support for employees seeking to relocate or paying for travel to get abortions if necessary.

The company has not said what it plans to do, but Halls emphasized that its leaders feel strongly that it needs to do something to preserve its employees’ access to care. “How do we as a business … get to a place where we feel our staff, regardless of where they live, have equitable freedoms?” she said.

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