After leaked documents revealed the Supreme Court plans to overturn Roe v. Wade things are, somehow, about to get even worse than they are now. This news, in tandem with the near-total abortion bans cropping up across the country, has since prompted a string of ostensibly supportive actions from corporations and employers like CitiGroup, Yelp, and Uber and Lyft. And as of this week, Amazon announced it will cover some expenses for employees who are forced to travel for abortion care, too. Which sounds great. Except that the policy comes with varying, inaccessible requirements and at least one major caveat.
Specifically, Amazon said it will provide US employees up to $4,000 annually for abortion travel expenses. But... employees have to live more than 100 miles away from an abortion clinic, suggesting a clinic that’s 99 miles away is perfectly accessible, and they’ll have to be “enrolled in employer-provided health care plans,” an Amazon spokesperson told Vice on Tuesday. This pretty much excludes all Amazon workers who would have the greatest need for the benefit, like its 115,000 delivery drivers. Or its factory workers. Or its lowest-paid, uninsured workers who are overwhelmingly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous. Many are who are women and pregnant-capable people.
The abortion benefit also comes amid its ongoing, wildly dystopian attempts to crush unionization efforts at the company. Some of these attempts have recently included trying to ban workers from using words like “union,” “pay raise,” and “restroom.” On Monday, the company won a hearing to potentially overturn a landmark union election that resulted in the first Amazon warehouse voting to unionize last month. Also as of this week, Amazon is no longer offering paid time off to workers who contract covid. Instead, workers will have five days of unpaid time off to recover from a potentially deadly, highly contagious respiratory disease. That Amazon has timed the announcement of its abortion benefit to coincide with all of these egregious, anti-worker actions is an intentional PR stunt. They’re relying on the public to not understand how reproductive and labor justice are inseparable from each other.
To be clear, abortion access and reproductive justice require living wages and dignified working conditions. “Corporate philanthropy,” like the abortion benefit, is so insidious because many of the societal problems they claim to be solving with their donations and advocacy are actually caused by their own greed, like Amazon’s refusal to offer many of its workers a living wage. Not everyone who seeks an abortion is a higher-paid worker at a wealthy tech company and has paid time off, and policies like Amazon’s abortion benefit can consequently widen the divide in who can and can’t afford care. In a similar vein, it’s also notable that, like CitiGroup, Yelp, Uber, and Lyft, Amazon has donated hundreds of thousands to a slew of Republican politicians who are the very architects of these abortion bans, according to Open Secrets.
Of course, there are multiple levels to what’s problematic about these benefits from Amazon, as well as the other aforementioned companies. For starters, no one should have to tell their boss they’re having an abortion in order to access care. In some states, your co-workers and neighbors can literally sue your loved ones, health providers, and anyone who helps you have an abortion. The fall of Roe opens the door for state surveillance and abortion criminalization on a massive scale. In other words, this requirement for workers to out themselves to their employers could literally place people in danger.
In lieu of these non-inclusive, overly complicated processes that require employees to tell their bosses they need an abortion—and, in Amazon’s case, exclude its lowest-paid workers—companies could simply donate to abortion funds that are already doing the work. Abortion access has become an all-hands-on-deck situation in this country, and we all have a part to play. If companies and employers want to play theirs, that’s great. Start with paying your workers a living wage, allowing them to unionize, and offering health coverage, so they can afford abortion care, in the first place. At the very least, for the love of god, give them bathroom breaks, you ghouls.