Earlier this month, a draft majority opinion striking down the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade was leaked to the public, causing widespread fear and leading to protests across the country. Though the draft decision has not yet been finalized, if Roe is struck down when the Supreme Court releases its final decision this summer, the effect would not only be calamitous for women’s reproductive health, but disastrous for American workers as well.
If Roe is overturned, trigger laws in effect across 13 states would ban the procedure almost immediately in those states. An analysis by the Guttmacher Institute suggests that an additional 13 states might quickly follow suit and ban abortions as well. Under these circumstances, many workers would quickly suffer the brutal consequences of a post-Roe America.
Overturning Roe would likely force many workers to travel out of state for abortion care. Workers who previously needed only a day or two of leave will likely need several additional days of leave time to travel out of state. The federal government does not require employers to provide any paid leave time to employees, meaning that many workers will not have any paid leave time to seek out-of-state abortion care. Although the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform her job, it seems unlikely that needing to get an abortion would be covered. (Ironically, if a woman suffered serious complications from receiving an unsafe abortion, only then would she qualify for FMLA leave.) And, employers can require employees to provide a doctor’s note certifying the employee’s need to take FMLA leave. In states where abortion will be illegal, it is unclear how a worker would obtain this documentation.
The lack of any federal laws guaranteeing leave time—paid or unpaid—means that many workers will have to choose between losing their jobs and being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy. Many of these workers will be forced to have children, frequently without concomitant increases in paid leave or paid childcare, given that the US is the only wealthy nation in the world without a national guaranteed paid parental leave program. It is expected that these circumstances will precipitate a drop in women in the workforce, erasing many of the gender pay gap gains abortion protections helped give rise to over the past several decades.
Even though the effects of a post-Roe workplace appear difficult to overcome, there will still be a role for corporations and employers to play to protect their employees. Employers in states that restrict access to reproductive health could add health benefits specifically to cover out of state abortion costs. Corporations such as Tesla, Citigroup, Yelp, Amazon, Apple, and Starbucks all have policies in place or have offered to cover some expenses for employees seeking abortions not offered in their home states.
Teukolsky Law stands in solidarity with the workers that will be affected should the Court’s draft opinion become the law of the land. For a list of abortion funds and pro-choice groups to donate to, click here.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.