By Emily Kestel, Fearless editor
Editor’s note: While the Business Record is apolitical, we report on governmental decisions that affect business. Through our Fearless initiative, we believe it’s imperative to talk about policy related to gender and family issues.
This story will be updated as more information about employers’ policies becomes available.
The U.S. Supreme Court last month overturned Roe v. Wade, ending a nearly 50-year precedent of a federal right to abortion. The decision gives individual states the authority to regulate abortion access. Some estimates say 26 states are likely to outlaw most, if not all, abortions.
For years, businesses have avoided weighing in on issues of reproductive health, but they now find themselves feeling pressured to speak out. Many national corporations have made headlines after announcing travel reimbursements for abortion. To get a sense of what’s happening at the local level, the Business Record reached out to more than 45 companies – including members of the Iowa Business Council, Iowa’s publicly held companies and businesses listed as the area’s largest employers in the Business Record’s Book of Lists – and asked if they’ve made any public or private statements. You’ll find their reactions below, but first we want to tee things up with some context.
How does the decision affect Iowans?
Iowans are able to have an abortion up until 20 weeks of pregnancy, though there are exceptions to save the life of the pregnant person.
Last month the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that abortion is not protected as a fundamental right in the state’s constitution.
Reynolds said she is not planning to call Iowa lawmakers back to the Capitol this year for a special session to pass more abortion legislation. Instead, she has indicated she intends to urge the Iowa Supreme Court to redecide the case that argued for a proposed 24-hour waiting period for an abortion, and will also ask that the courts lift an injunction that is blocking a 2018 law that would effectively outlaw abortions after six weeks.
In 2020, more than 4,000 pregnancies in Iowa were terminated, according to Iowa Department of Public Health data. The vast majority of the terminations occurred between zero and 13 weeks. The majority of those who terminated their pregnancies were unmarried, had completed some level of higher education and were in their 20s.
How have people reacted?
Abortion rights advocates have called this a “dark moment” for America, and are forecasting a regression of women’s economic success and participation in the labor force. Anti-abortion advocates have celebrated the decision, vowing to “fight vigorously until the laws in every state protect all human life from conception until natural death.”
According to the latest NPR/PBS NewHour/Marist poll, 56% of U.S. adults oppose the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Another poll found that one-third of registered voters said their state would be less desirable to live in if it banned abortion, while 5% said it would make it more desirable. The rest said it would not have an effect.
A 2021 Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found that 57% of Iowans say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while 38% say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases.
How have national companies responded to the ruling?
Companies across the country have recently stepped up their policies that provide holistic support for their employees, including those surrounding mental health, paid family leave, child care support and flexibility.
Now, companies are facing increased pressure to address employees’ reproductive health care within their benefits packages. Experts have said companies will need to speak out about how the Roe v. Wade decision will affect their workforce and what they plan on doing about it if they want to retain employees.
One survey by an HR research firm found that more than half of employers do not plan to make a statement about their stance on abortion following the Supreme Court decision.
That’s at odds with research from the latest Edelman Trust Barometer results, which found that 60% of employees believe CEOs should speak publicly about social or political issues that may be controversial.
In a New York Times article, Yelp Chief Diversity Officer Miriam Warren said: “The days of companies not wading into political issues, or not speaking out on things that are perceived as private or personal, are over.”
More than 40 companies have said they will cover travel expenses for employees if they need to go out of state for abortions, including Amazon, Bank of America, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Disney, DoorDash, Google, Johnson & Johnson, Lyft, Uber, Meta, Nike, Salesforce, Starbucks, Tesla and Yelp.
Duolingo has threatened to move its corporate headquarters out of Pennsylvania if the state bans abortion.
“I’m not sure a CEO will choose a state because it’s pro- or anti-choice,” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont told MarketWatch. “But I do know they want to be in a place where they can recruit good workers. And people, especially young people, will gravitate to a place that will protect women.”
How have Iowa companies responded to the ruling?
The Business Record reached out to more than 45 companies across the state, including Iowa Business Council members, companies listed as the largest nongovernment employers in the Business Record’s Book of Lists, and the state’s publicly held companies. Twelve responded with comments in time for this article’s initial publication.
The following companies have announced expansions to benefits to include travel reimbursement for health services.
Principal Financial Group: “Principal is committed to supporting our employees with equitable access to safe health care options. As such, we’ve recently shared with our U.S. employees that we’ve expanded our health plan’s travel reimbursement policy to include reimbursement for travel-related expenses for health services that are not available in every state, including reproductive services.”
A Wells Fargo spokesperson said, “As part of our commitment to supporting the health of our employees, we are expanding the current coverage of our existing medical plans’ travel benefits to include reimbursement of travel costs for abortion services in accordance with applicable law. Wells Fargo employees have access to a national network of healthcare professionals who provide medical care to meet their diverse needs, no matter the state in which they live.” An attached internal memo from the company read, “Our medical plans include a travel benefit for certain services, including bariatric services, infertility and fertility treatment, transplants, gender reassignment, cancer treatment, congenital heart disease, and spine or joint surgery. Effective July 1, 2022, we’re expanding the coverage of our travel benefit to include reimbursement of transportation and lodging costs for legal abortion-related services. In addition, we have numerous benefit and well-being options to support the health of you and your family. If you’re enrolled in a Wells Fargo medical plan and the health care services you or your dependents require are not available within 50 miles from your home, you can be reimburse for transportation and lodging costs for yourself and one companion subject to IRS and plan limits. This travel benefit, as determined by the claims administrator and in accordance with applicable law, covers reasonable and necessary transportation and lodging expenses.”
Dotdash Meredith confirmed CEO Neil Vogel sent out the following email to employees: “As we are all processing the emotions from yesterday’s news of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, please know that we are committed to the health and well-being of all our Dotdash Meredith employees. We will now cover travel expenses for employees seeking reproductive healthcare if unavailable within 100 miles of your home. This benefit has already been added to our Aetna programs for legacy Dotdash employees, and the benefit will be extended to legacy Meredith employees as well (our health plans are still separate until year end). There are still a few details to be worked out, but this is what we are doing to make sure that all of our team can access the same healthcare coverage no matter where they live. If you have specific questions please contact HR and they can help.”
Bridgestone: “The well-being and safety of all Bridgestone Americas teammates remains the company’s most important value, and our foremost priority in any decisions we make on this issue is ensuring that our teammates have access to safe, high-quality medical care when and where they need it. The ruling overturning Roe v. Wade has triggered into effect a number of state laws restricting access to abortions, and others will likely follow. Bridgestone Americas, like other large companies with locations across the U.S., is working to understand the implications and nuances of the various state laws. Our objective is to ensure that we can continue to offer our teammates and their dependents access to the high-quality health care they deserve while complying with all applicable laws. Our benefit plans currently cover abortion services in specified circumstances. Our plans also provide a travel and lodging benefit for specific medical procedures when not available in a teammate’s or covered dependent’s local geographic area. Going forward, we will extend this travel and lodging benefit more broadly to covered abortion services, to the extent permitted by applicable laws. We will be working with our healthcare administrator to implement this expanded travel and lodging benefit as soon as it can be administered effectively. We will also be considering other potential coverage updates to ensure that access to medical care for our teammates and their loved ones is as safe and seamless as possible.”
Businessolver in an email to the Business Record said it is communicating only to its employees and clients about the ruling and its impact. However, it confirmed a LinkedIn post that an employee shared that announced a medical travel reimbursement benefit for employees to offset the cost. “With Solvers in 43 states, we understand and embrace our responsibility to support all Solvers in navigating work and life. Businessolver is a diverse employer, with nearly 1,500 employees representing a broad cross-section of personal, cultural, and spiritual beliefs … and we understand this ruling has implications for both the employees we support and clients we serve.”
The following companies have said they are currently reviewing benefits and monitoring the ruling’s reach.
Hy-Vee: “As always, we are constantly reviewing the offerings and plans we provide as options to our employees. We are currently monitoring how the states we are in will be addressing this.”
Wellmark: “Wellmark shared a short statement with our employees the afternoon of the ruling. In that statement we shared with employees that we are actively reviewing the court’s decision to fully understand its implications. While we do so, we remain committed to supporting our members and employer groups while complying with the law in the communities we serve. As we learn more, we will communicate what, if any, impact this will have on specific health plan benefits.”
MidAmerican: “We are reviewing the ruling and will continue to support our employees’ health care needs.”
Kum & Go said it is still working through its plans and response. Kum & Go CEO Tanner Krause said in a series of tweets on June 28 “Women’s Rights >>> State’s Rights and any other rationale for overturning Roe. This court has set Women’s Rights & Healthcare back 50+ years. I’m sorry to my mother, my wife, my daughter and all the females out there who lost autonomy over their bodies. I will continue to be your ally for equal rights.”
The Weitz Co. has not made a public statement or sent out an internal message to employees, but said in an email to the Business Record: “We recognize this is a deeply personal matter to our employees and prefer – and encourage – conversations on an individual basis with those who are struggling or concerned with the impacts of this decision. Our human resources team stands ready to offer support and resources for employees who may be experiencing stress and anxiety.”
NCMIC has not made a public statement or sent an internal message to employees, but a spokesperson told the Business Record: “The health and well-being of our employees is first and foremost. NCMIC’s senior management team continues to monitor news related to the SCOTUS decision on Roe vs. Wade here in Iowa.”
Sammons Financial Group: “We have shared an update on the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling with our nearly 1,700 employees. Our chief priority is to assure our employees of their healthcare-related benefits. Sammons Financial Group remains steadfast in our commitment to our employees and their families by providing broad health and wellness coverage through our benefit plans. The update we shared includes a compilation of resources pertaining to our existing employee medical coverage benefit plans.”
Bankers Trust, Chevron Renewable Energy Group, EMC Insurance Cos., Ruan Transportation Management Systems, ChildServe, Fareway, the Iowa Clinic, Pella Corp. and GuideOne Insurance declined to comment. Grinnell Mutual and Holmes Murphy responded to an email, but did not have any information to share yet.
MercyOne Des Moines, UnityPoint Health, John Deere, Corteva, Athene, Casey’s General Stores, FBL Financial, Prairie Meadows, Ames National Corp., Aureon, Holmes Murphy, Kent Corp., Vermeer, Wells Enterprises, American Enterprise, Alliant Energy, Collins Aerospace, CDS Global, Baker Group, Des Moines Orthopedic Surgeons, West Bancorp, Workiva and Winnebago Industries had not responded to a request for comment by time of publication.
Public relations experts are advising businesses to be empathetic to employees’ emotions and reactions to changes in how new laws affect livelihoods.
In a PR News Online article, Diane Primo, CEO of Purpose Brand Agency, said this is the “absolute wrong time to censor your employees.”
“Everybody is going to have a point of view,” she says. “This is the world we live in. We have to come to accept that. The question for a company is what are you willing to stand up for? What are you willing to say? And what are you willing to do? And regardless of that, you may have people who challenge you.”
In the most recent Fearless survey on women’s and gender issues, which was published this spring, 76% of respondents said that conversations about social issues have a place in the workplace.
Respondents said social issues affect colleagues and clients, and businesses have a unique platform to influence change in a community. Others said parameters should be put in place to protect employees from feeling harassed about topics that are uncomfortable to them.
“It’s easier not to discuss topics that can bring on emotion and divisiveness. However, if we’re asking employees to bring their whole self to work every day, being willing to facilitate conversations about social issues will make a big difference in how we are supporting our team members,” one person wrote.
Another person said, “When we say social issues, let’s be really clear about what we are talking about because these are issues that impact people’s livelihoods and their lives. Yes, it’s important for organizations to explore, discuss, and define their values, their policies, and systems for supporting the humans they serve.”