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You Shouldn't Have to Tell Your Employer You Need an Abortion

Citigroup is the latest company to cover travel costs in response to state abortion bans. It's not the right solution.

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Citigroup said this week that it would cover travel costs for employees who need to leave their state to get an abortion, thanks to laws like the Texas six-week abortion ban. Well, Citi didn’t actually say the word abortion—it wrote this in a letter to its shareholders: “In response to changes in reproductive health-care laws in certain states in the U.S., beginning in 2022 we provide travel benefits to facilitate access to adequate resources.” (People famously get abortions at “adequate resources” clinics.)

The policy at Citi—which has more than 8,500 Texas employees, per Bloomberg—will cover expenses like plane tickets and hotels. Citi follows other companies like Texas-based Bumble and Match Group in offering travel funds, while Salesforce went even further in saying it would help its Texan workers move out of state if they wanted.

Programs like this feel sadly necessary as more states move to copy the Texas law. The Idaho legislature sent its bill to Gov. Brad Little on Monday, and the Oklahoma State Senate passed its version (which is awaiting a vote in the House), and at least 10 other states are considering their own copycats.

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And while taking this kind of action generates nice headlines for the companies involved and could take some of the pressure off the mutual aid groups known as abortion funds, there’s one glaring problem: No one should have to tell their employer in any way that they need an abortion!

Citi workers wouldn’t need to inform their direct supervisor what they’re doing, but they would need to submit sick days for approval, pay for the travel and abortion up front, then submit for insurance reimbursement, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

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Policies like this will also continue to widen the gap between who can access abortion, since workers in the U.S. often don’t get insurance unless they’re full-time, salaried employees. Hourly workers who don’t qualify for health benefits—let alone paid time off to actually make the trip out of state—will continue to be left behind.

Even more fundamentally, abortion is healthcare and healthcare is a human right. We shouldn’t even be in a situation where people don’t have health insurance that covers abortion and clinics in their communities.

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This country is broken. Anyone cheerleading the moves by Citi, Bumble, and Salesforce is egging on companies to pursue private solutions to what is a public health problem. It would be more impactful if these companies pledged to never donate to anti-abortion politicians and urged federal lawmakers to actually pass the the bill that would codify Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court overturns it. They could do the same things in state legislatures.

The whole thing is reminiscent of how, in March 2020, it was private companies that shut down businesses and workplaces before states or the feds took any action. We’re seeing the same pattern here: The hopelessly gridlocked Senate can’t pass the Women’s Health Protection Act or do anything to stop the Supreme Court from imminently gutting Roe v. Wade, so now companies are stepping in with bandaids for a gaping wound. Corporations didn’t save us then, and they can’t save us now—Americans deserve better.

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Correction, 3/17/22, 3:30pm: This headline and story has been corrected to reflect that, in order to access this medical travel benefit, Citi employees don’t need to tell their supervisors that they’re getting an abortion in other state, but they do need to submit sick days for approval, pay for the travel and abortion up front, then submit for insurance reimbursement.