2 approaches to communicating with employees about abortion in wake of Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade

Some companies are publicly condemning reported changes to abortion rights, while others take a benefits-focused position.

As the United States grapples with the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, companies are facing their own choice: How to communicate about abortion rights to employees.

Internal communicators that decide to engage with this issue will consider how their messaging about employee assistance around abortion and related reproductive health needs can also be used as external comms for their organizations. Some companies have already taken an explicit stance in favor of abortion rights, while others are more focused on fulfilling the health benefits they have promised to their employees.

At least one company has already condemned the potential SCOTUS ruling. Kate Ryder, founder and CEO of family health telemedicine company Maven, posted a statement to employees on LinkedIn on the Tuesday morning after the draft decision was leaked.

Ryder wrote that women’s health and reproductive care — including access to safe abortion — is central to her company’s mission.

“Maven offers a safe, affirming place for people to get guidance on their care needs, free of judgment, negativity, or bias of any kind,” she says.

Ryder also explains how Maven has been working to support its employees and customers since 2021:

Since last September, when the Texas legislature passed SB-8, which banned abortion after 6 weeks, Maven teams have been planning and working on how to continue to support access to care if Roe v. Wade gets overturned. That means leveraging Maven Wallet to help American companies cover expenses for women seeking out-of-state care, and it means supporting members with options counseling and providing a safe forum for people to learn about their choices regarding pregnancy. We’ll share more information in the All-Maven meeting.

Ryder explicitly condemns regulations that prevent access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion. She then cites the official position of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, quoting directly from its website.

Ryder’s message to the Maven community is clear: Her company supports access to safe abortion and reproductive care and condemns attempts to revoke that access. Ryder’s use of a scientific source also lends legitimacy to her stance.

By sharing the statement on LinkedIn, Ryder ensured that the internal memo would also act as PR for Maven. Making use of internal comms messaging in your external comms strategy, often referred to as “mixternal communications,” is a proven way to strengthen your employer branding, especially as Americans say they want more action on social issues from their employers.

PR firm Bospar also condemned the potential revocation of federal abortion rights. In a press release, Bospar principal and co-founder Curtis Sparrer shared a personal message about his viewpoint on Roe v. Wade:

Roe v. Wade has been standing law for 50 years. If this ruling goes through, this will be the first time in its history that the Supreme Court has taken away an existing right. This type of overreach is a frightening indicator of what this current Court is prepared to do. As someone who credits his same-sex marriage to the legacy of Roe, I am imploring my colleagues and friends to end their silence. We are stronger together.

Bospar is also covering its employees’ relocation expenses “for staff seeking reproductive freedom” following abortion-limiting legal action in Texas.

Benefits-focused approaches to abortion rights

If the nation’s highest court did overturn the nearly 50-year-old decision, the legality of abortion rights would be left up to the states. States like Texas and Oklahoma have recently passed legislation that would make it nearly impossible for a woman to obtain a legal abortion and some companies had already put measures in place to ensure their employees would have access to abortion care.

However, instead of explicitly condemning the legislation that made these travel policies necessary, many companies focused their messaging on the fulfillment of healthcare benefits provided to employees by the organizations.

Take Citigroup, for instance. It was one of the first companies to publicly announce it would cover travel expenses for employees crossing state lines to obtain an abortion.

“In response to changes in reproductive healthcare laws in certain states in the U.S., beginning in 2022 we provide travel benefits to facilitate access to adequate resources,” Citigroup said in a statement. Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser told Bloomberg that the policy wasn’t meant as a political statement.

Amazon, too, will offer to cover employees’ travel costs — up to $4,000 annually — incurred while seeking an abortion out of their home state, but the company has not publicly commented on the legal action that makes this policy necessary. Amazon’s policy also covers travel reimbursements for transgender care, as well as other non-life-threatening and life-threatening issues.

Comms pros, will your organization be making a statement to employees about the overturning of Roe v. Wade? If so, are you prepared for that statement to be published and read by more people than its intended audience?

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.


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