Ed. Note: The following piece originally appeared at National Review.
In the months since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, private companies and nonprofits across the country have offered to pay the travel expenses of women seeking abortions outside their home states — a move that seems calculated to maximize profits rather than to care for employees and their families. By also cutting back on maternity- and paternity-leave benefits, these same corporations have sent a clear signal to employees that abortion may be a better choice than giving birth.
Women make up 48 percent of employees in the for-profit sector, and 73 percent of employees in the nonprofit sector, so these trends in corporate policy are ominous. Fortunately, there are a few small changes nonprofits and for-profit organizations alike can make that will give women truly holistic health-care options — and a real choice.
The reality is that organizations that claim to be “supporting” female employees by paying for abortion travel are really just making a financial decision. Not only does an abortion get an organization off the hook for paid parental leave, but it also reduces the number of dependents added to the company health-insurance plan.
With this in mind, the simplest change nonprofits can make to support life is to offer paid maternity leave. For many nonprofits, this may feel like an impossible ask, but a quick look at the numbers shows that nonprofits across the country have found ways to make it work. In fact, the share of nonprofits offering paid parental leave (48 percent) is higher than the share of for-profit companies (45 percent) and the share of government contractors (42 percent) doing the same. The nonprofit Sustainable Economics Law Center, for example, offers a staggering 40 weeks of paid parental leave, in an effort to resist what it calls the “devaluing of motherhood.” Abby Johnson’s nonprofit, And Then There Were None, offers twelve weeks of paid leave for employees after a birth, adoption, or miscarriage.
The margins may seem slim, but nonprofits can make paid leave part of their benefits packages, and doing so is the clearest way to signal to women that they will not be punished for choosing life.
What’s more, there are massive benefits to offering women paid leave and fostering a work culture that embraces motherhood. Ninety-eight percent of new mothers whose organizations offered paid leave returned to work after the leave was up — and that has huge advantages for organizations, since the cost of replacing a talented employee is estimated to be between 70 percent and 200 percent of her total annual salary.
Parents with young children may be more likely to request time off to care for sick kids and may need occasional flexibility to deal with child-care hiccups, school drop-offs and pick-ups, and extracurricular activities. Organizations that toss a few thousand dollars (or less) to a woman to end a pregnancy realize that abortion is a cheaper option. But nonprofits that want to give their female employees the ability to choose life can look back on the past two years, in which remote work became the norm. We now know that in many situations, organizations absolutely can allow women with children greater flexibility, without serious reductions in productivity.
When an organization creates a culture incentivizing abortion over motherhood, it is further pressuring pregnant employees to choose their economic interests over motherhood. When it instead directs its resources toward supporting employees through pregnancy, birth, and motherhood, it allows them not to have to make that impossible choice.
What’s more, corporate pay-for-abortion-travel schemes also entrench Roe v. Wade’s claim that motherhood “forces upon women a distressful life and future.” They perpetuate Planned Parenthood v. Casey’s incorrect conclusion that “motherhood has a dramatic impact on a woman’s educational prospects, employment opportunities, and self-determination.” These demeaning notions are outdated and untrue, and no organization should buy into them. There is no reason why female workers should have to be exactly like men in the workplace. This is an issue on which pro-women and self-proclaimed “feminist” nonprofits can take a stand for their employees: Rather than backing expectant mothers into a decision they may not want to make, women-centric nonprofits can clear the way for a real choice.
Earlier this year, businessman Peter Rex wrote in Newsweek that abortion-promoting companies “are ignoring the possibility that many employees may simply need a little more help to carry their baby to term.” “Instead of blindly paying people to end an unborn child’s life,” he wrote, “companies should consider paying them to welcome that life into the world.” Rex practices what he preaches: His business offers up to $7,500 to employees who choose to place an unexpected baby up for adoption rather than having an abortion. His piece highlighted another company, Buffer, that both offers pregnant employees financial incentives to choose adoption over abortion and covers the full costs of birth.
Such policies may seem cripplingly expensive to many nonprofits. But the reality is that helping employees choose life, in addition to being the right thing to do, is also good for business. Abortion damages women; over and over, studies have found that the procedure “is consistently associated with elevated rates of mental illness” and “directly contributes to mental health problems” — including substance abuse, suicidal ideation, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder — “for at least some women.” Especially as our world is experiencing a catastrophic rise in mental and emotional distress, organizations would do well to invest in their employees’ long-term mental health.
Businesses that tout one-time abortion-travel payments as the best solution to an unexpected pregnancy may have their own bottom lines in mind, but they’re doing their employees and themselves a disservice. Though helping women flourish as professionals and mothers may seem more expensive in the short term, in the long term, it is crucial to fostering the kind of happy, healthy work culture on which any organization thrives.