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Why companies think paying for abortion travel is worth it

The nation’s largest companies are pledging to cover employees’ travel expenses to access abortion services, deciding an additional benefit for workers in a tight labor market outweighs the threat of legal action from states that have criminalized abortion.

Walt Disney, Comcast, PayPal, Nike and other major employers announced those benefits on Friday, shortly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and upended a near 50-year precedent that guaranteed the right to abortion. Several other top employers implemented similar policies after the draft ruling was leaked last month.

The wave of announcements came even as some GOP state lawmakers said they intend to go after employers that help their workers get an abortion, indicating that big companies are largely willing to take the risk to help hire and retain employees.

“Everyone’s scrambling to have the employees they need, and so employers are asking themselves: Could I stand the possibility of a lawsuit against the certainty that some employees may just not stay with me if I don’t support this? It’s not an easy call to make, but I could imagine a lot of people ending in that place,” said Sandra Sucher, a professor of management at Harvard Business School.

Ten states have already implemented laws to either ban abortion with very limited exceptions or heavily restrict access to the procedure. Roughly half of U.S. states are expected to enact near-total abortion bans, which would force people in some states to travel enormous distances to access an abortion clinic.

Most large employers already covered abortions in their health care plans. Now, some firms, including Netflix, are paying as much as $10,000 to cover an employee’s out-of-state travel for the procedure. They’re under pressure to provide the benefits amid a tight labor market, where more than 11 million jobs remain unfilled and employers struggle to attract workers.

The Society for Human Resource Management said in a note that employers are offering abortion benefits as a way to “enhance their ability to compete for talent.” Those policies include allowing workers to pay for travel using their health savings account.

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