NEW YORK — Walmart, the nation’s largest employer, is expanding its abortion coverage for employees after it remained largely silent on the issue following the Supreme Court ruling that repealed a nationwide right to abortion.
In a memo sent to employees Friday, the company said its health care plans will now cover abortion for employees “when there is a health risk to the mother, rape or incest, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or lack of fetal viability. ”
Previously, the company’s benefit plan only covered abortion in cases “when the mother’s health would be compromised if the fetus reached term, the fetus did not survive the birthing process, or death after birth was imminent.” according to a copy of the policy that has been reviewed by The Associated Press, but not endorsed by Walmart.
Donna Morris, the retailer’s chief people officer, said in the memo to staff that the new policy will also provide “travel support” to workers seeking abortions covered by health plans — as well as their dependents — so they can access it. to services not available within 100 miles of their locations.
Walmart employs nearly 1.6 million people in the US. In Arkansas, where the company is located, abortion is prohibited under all circumstances unless the procedure is necessary to protect the mother’s life in a medical emergency. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. That means under the revised policy, Walmart employees can leave the state — or any other state that prohibits abortion for rape and incest — to obtain the procedure through the retailer’s health plans.
Several companies, including Meta, American Express and Bank of America, have said they will cover their employees’ travel expenses in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that rejected Roe v. Wade, including elective abortions. But a Walmart spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether any of the company’s revised policies also address elective abortions.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s just not far enough for a company that employs so many women,” said Bianca Agustin, director of the corporate accountability program at United for Respect, a group that advocates for Walmart. -employees. She said the organization will include “safe abortions” for employees in its list of demands that pressure the company for better pay and benefits.
Meanwhile, many other companies and organizations representing some of the most powerful corporations in the country have remained silent on the matter.
The careful expansion of Walmart’s abortion policy shows it is trying to balance differing pressures and opinions from employees, investors and other stakeholders, said Vanessa Burbano, a professor at Columbia University’s business school who studies how companies take social stances. .
“It’s a lot trickier than many people initially think,” Burbano said. “It’s not like all their stakeholders have the same opinion on these issues, and that’s what makes it so challenging. They’re trying to figure out how to thread that needle.”
In the memo sent Friday, the company said it will also launch a center that will provide fertility services to employees, such as in vitro fertilization. In addition, it promised to add surrogacy and increase its adoption financial support from $5,000 to $20,000. In June, Walmart said it would expand its offering of doulas — or people who help women during pregnancies — to address racial disparities in maternal care.
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