With the threat of Roe v. Wade being overturned and abortions becoming banned in several states, many companies have announced that they’ll cover the cost of travel expenses incurred by employees who wish to get an abortion elsewhere. Amazon, for example, will cover up to $4,000, while Citigroup, Salesforce and Yelp have publicized similar offerings without an explicit figure attached.
And while this is undoubtedly a critical benefit, particularly for a company such as Amazon that employs more than one million people in the U.S., it’s not exactly worthy of praise. We shouldn’t have to rely upon our employers to provide the basic health services our government should, and moreover, we ought to be suspicious of exactly why employers want to provide these services in the first place.
In theory, such policies might seem like an example of a tech or financial giant doing the “right thing” by their employees. They could presumably help workers in states like Texas that have already severely limited abortions. Still, when you consider the fact that it financially benefits these companies for their workers not to have children, it starts to feel more sinister. Beyond the loss of productivity during pregnancy and when raising a child, Amazon has to pay 20 weeks of paid leave and cover the expenses incurred by replacing that employee for that period of time.
Again, all of these things cost the company money, and they likely wouldn’t do it if they didn’t absolutely have to. Case in point: Given that there’s no federal requirement for paid parental leave, Amazon would undoubtedly offer less time off for new parents if it was feasible for their business to do so while still attracting employees. It’s obviously the most cynical way of looking at it, but Amazon is willing to pay their employees $4,000 to get an abortion because it’s cheaper for them than accomodating a new parent. There’s nothing generous or feminist about that.
Just in terms of the policy, there are more reasons to be critical of Amazon’s move, too. While this $4,000 limit applies to travel for all non-life threatening medical care (e.g., flying to a substance abuse treatment center), the timing of its announcement following the Roe v. Wade leak positions it as an abortion-centric shift meant to generate positive press for the company. But notably, a rather significant number of Amazon employees are excluded from the benefit. As Motherboard reports, the company’s 115,000 delivery drivers don’t qualify — they’re considered contractors, not employees — as are the 2.9 million gig-economy workers utilizing the Amazon Flex app. The same goes for workers who use Medicaid as their health insurance or work less than 20 hours per week.
Above all, it’s worth mentioning that 13 American companies — including Amazon — have together donated $15.2 million to Republican anti-abortion PACs since 2016. So while Amazon’s visibility politics might seem upstanding to some, their track record in supporting reproductive rights says otherwise.
If we lived in a country that actually prioritized the wellbeing of its people, it wouldn’t matter how much Amazon donated to anti-abortion groups, nor would how little a person worked or whether they were technically a contractor or a full-time employee. We’d have comprehensive health care, including abortions, without it being tied to work at all. Our bodily autonomy and health shouldn’t be dependent upon the whims of employer-sponsored benefits. Likewise, it’s not in any way a consolation that some workers will have to submit the receipts of their personal health decisions to their boss in order to get the care that they need.
Further indebting ourselves to our employers, who care about nothing more than our productivity, will never be a real solution.