Tech Companies Will Cover Abortion Travel—but Not for All Workers
Apple, Meta, Microsoft, and Uber also rely on large pools of TVCs or gig workers and have announced abortion travel benefits for their employees. When asked if nonemployee workers were covered, Microsoft spokesperson Michelle Micor declined to answer; the other three companies did not respond.
Ironically, the workers being shut out of abortion travel benefits are probably more likely to need it than full-time tech employees, given their generally lower compensation. In 2015, the Brookings Institution found that people with a family income below the federal poverty line, who tend to have less access to contraception and family planning education, were 5 times more likely than more affluent people to experience unintended pregnancy. Black and Hispanic people are overrepresented amongst abortion seekers.
People with lower incomes are also less likely to have health insurance that covers abortion. In 2014, the latest year for which the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion policy nonprofit, has data, only 31 percent of people seeking abortion care had any private health insurance at all. Another 35 percent were covered by Medicaid, which excludes most abortion coverage in 34 states that won’t fund it.
Experts say there are many ways tech companies could support TVCs and gig workers in the post-Roe US, should they want to. Shelley Alpern, director of corporate engagement at Rhia Ventures, a social impact investment firm that submits shareholder resolutions pressing companies to support reproductive rights, says those steps include seeding a travel fund that temps and contractors could use, suspending political donations to anti-abortion politicians, and contacting lawmakers to oppose anti-abortion policy. Big companies “are like sleeping giants on this issue,” Alpern says.
Other options for corporations that want to make a difference include donating to local abortion funds in places they do business or have employees, says Liza Fuentes, senior research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute. “That is pretty low-hanging fruit, and it’s desperately needed,” Fuentes says. She says tech companies could work with the National Network of Abortion Funds, which lets donors earmark funds for specific communities, and groups like the Brigid Alliance, which arranges and funds abortion care and travel for people in need.
Some permanent employees inside tech companies have been pressuring their own bosses to take some of those steps to support abortion access. The Washington Post reported last month that workers inside Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have circulated petitions and internal messages calling on their companies to pledge to protect the privacy of users who seek abortions.
In her statement calling on Alphabet to extend abortion travel benefits to TVCs, AWU’s Koul said the company should also end donations to anti-abortion politicians and establish privacy protocols to protect Google users seeking information about abortion access. “History has proven that the Supreme Court’s ruling will not stop abortions, it will only stop safe abortions,” she wrote. “Google can do more to ensure all workers and users have the information and resources necessary to safely access reproductive health services.”
A day after the AWU made its statement public, Google announced its privacy updates, which include the deletion of abortion clinic visits from users’ location history. Software engineer and executive council member Ashok Chandwaney acknowledged the changes but reiterated that the company must go further in protecting user and worker privacy and expand abortion access for all of its workers. “Our organizing will continue,” he wrote.
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