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Companies scramble to protect abortion access for employees after court ruling

Some of America’s largest companies moved swiftly to protect their employees’ access to abortion after Friday’s supreme court decision to end the constitutional right to an abortion in the US. The moves are likely to deepen an expanding rift between conservative Republicans and corporate America.

Disney, JP Morgan, Levi Strauss and Microsoft were among the companies to tell staff they would cover employee travel expenses for abortions in light of the supreme court’s decision to strike down Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that the constitution generally protects the right to choose an abortion.

“We recognize the impact of the ruling and that we remain committed to providing comprehensive access to quality and affordable care for all of our employees, cast members and their families, including family planning and reproductive care, no matter where they live,” Disney said in a statement.

In a statement Levi Strauss said: ​​We stand strongly against any actions that hinder the health and well-being of our employees, which means opposing any steps to restrict access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion.

“Protection of reproductive rights is a critical business issue impacting our workforce, our economy, and progress toward gender and racial equity. Given what is at stake, business leaders need to make their voices heard and act to protect the health and well-being of our employees.”

The upending of Roe has left businesses scrambling to reassess their policies.

Jen Stark, co-director of the Center for Business and Social Justice, said the ruling was “deeply destabilizing” for companies and their employees and the situation would probably get worse.

“The fall of Roe is just the end of the beginning. We will see more extreme public policy, unfortunately, at the state level and with even more extreme policy if there is a willingness at the federal level,” she said.

Republican legislators are already threatening companies that have said they will offer staff assistance in getting an abortion. After Citigroup revealed it would give staff travel assistance, conservatives in Congress asked House and Senate administrators to cancel its contract with the company.

Legal scholars said Friday’s ruling could open the way for attacks on other rights, including same-sex marriage, at a time when companies are facing Republican backlash for supporting the LGBTQ community.

Disney is at loggerheads with Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor and a potential Republican presidential candidate, over his “don’t say gay” bill, which bans teachers ​​from holding classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Proponents of extreme policy do issue a lot of punitive rhetoric,” said Stark. “Ultimately a larger story is that these moves are economically destabilizing [for corporations] and sow a lot of chaos. On that issue alone, companies’ antennas are up.”

Stark said companies may have tolerated extreme rhetoric in the past because they got what they needed in terms of tax and regulatory issues. Now “the collateral damage has increased, making it harder for companies to say one thing and do another, and the cost of that is going to be higher than the perception of backlash,” she said.

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