Tech companies ready public stances on Roe v. Wade
Some providing out-of-state medical expenses, others spout general pro-choice statements
Several US tech companies have taken a stance or issued statements promising healthcare-related support for employees following the Supreme Court's ruling to overturn Roe v Wade last Friday.
A Supreme Court draft opinion that was leaked in February provided advanced warning of the legal eventuality, giving companies plenty of time to prepare official positions and related policies for employees.
Without proper policies in place, tech companies could put themselves at risk of "brain drain" as employees become tempted to relocate to states where abortion access is readily available or to companies that better support potential needs as healthcare in the US is more often tied to an employer than not.
Thirteen out of 50 states have "trigger laws," meaning the highest court's action bans abortion automatically, and anyone seeking the procedure must travel to another state to receive such desired medical care.
These trigger states are home to companies such as Dell, Tesla, SolarWinds, HP, Oracle, and Rackspace (all in Texas), as well as Micron in Idaho. Even without a headquarters in a trigger state, companies may still operate with a footprint in one, for example Microsoft's datacenters in Cheyenne, Wyoming, which as of last November had over 200 employees.
Companies including Airbnb, headquartered in Georgia, which although not a trigger state is one of 26 states deemed certain or likely to restrict access to abortion, already had a policy of allowing remote work without negatively affecting pay no matter the location. Airbnb's policy was put in place in April.
Google mostly allows its employees to change their location, rejecting only applicants whose jobs require specialized equipment or necessary in-person meetings, which it told Bloomberg accounts for approximately 15 percent of staff.
"Chief people officer" Fiona Cicconi sent out a letter to staff on Friday stating that Googlers and their dependents' insurance covered out-of-state medical procedures not available where the employee lived and worked. "Googlers can also apply for relocation without justification, and those overseeing this process will be aware of the situation. If you need additional support," further read the email.
Susan Wojcicki, CEO of fellow Alphabet company, video platform YouTube, said on Twitter that "reproductive rights are human rights."
As a CEO I recognize there are a spectrum of opinions on the SCOTUS ruling today. As a woman, it’s a devastating setback. I personally believe every woman should have a choice about how and when to become a mother. Reproductive rights are human rights.— Susan Wojcicki (@SusanWojcicki) June 24, 2022
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Apple, Meta, and Amazon have also agreed to cover out-of-state travel expenses to receive medical care. Of course, in the case of Amazon, the benefit does not apply to its swathes of contractors and part-time employees.
Sheryl Sandberg, soon to be former COO of Meta Platforms, took to her Facebook page to call the Supreme Court ruling a "huge setback" that "jeopardizes the health and the lives of millions of girls and women across the country."
Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff also issued a statement via Twitter:
I believe CEOs have a responsibility to take care of their employees—no matter what. Salesforce moves employees when they feel threatened or experience discrimination. To our Ohana—we always make sure you have the best benefits & care, & we will always have your back. Always. ❤️— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) June 24, 2022
Meanwhile, Microsoft said on LinkedIn: "Microsoft will continue to do everything we can to support our employees and their enrolled dependents in accessing critical health care. This includes our previously announced support for travel expense assistance for medical services covered in our US health plan, when care options, including abortion, are limited in an employee's home region."
But while offering support to employees regarding Roe v Wade's reversal is important culturally and logistically, that support may not necessarily extend to their users.
On Friday morning, as the Supreme Court's decision was announced, The Register asked Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Meta, and Twitter "what will your company do to ensure that the data you collect isn't going to be used to build a case against women seeking abortions and people or organizations providing abortion support?"
As of 1600 Pacific Time that day, none had responded.
According to reports at the weekend, a Meta memo told its workers on Friday not to openly discuss the Supreme Court's ruling.
A May report from news non-profit The Markup concluded that Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but claimed that behind the scenes the companies have worked to weaken or kill US privacy legislation. ®