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Overturn of Roe Gives Women’s Reproductive Rights a New ESG Spotlight

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The Supreme Court’s June Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision thrust women’s reproductive rights and healthcare access into the spotlight. Companies and organizations feel the pressure to act on the issue, and investors are likewise playing a role in pushing reproductive health as a workforce and economic issue.

Social and Business Benefits of Equal Access

Women’s access to reproductive healthcare carries a significant impact on an organization’s workforce. A 2020 case study entitled Hidden Value: The Business Case for Reproductive Health argues that abortion restrictions contribute to a weakened talent pool, reduced talent mobility, higher turnover, and a weaker economy in several ways:

  • The majority of women already use reproductive health services; 99% of women have used contraception, and 24% have had an abortion by age 45.
  • 70% of women and 59% of men ages 18–44 would be less likely to take a job in a state that restricts access to abortion.
  • 86% of women report that being in control of if and when to have children has been important to their careers.
  • Access to contraception and abortion affect workers’ ability to invest in education and training, ultimately affecting advancement opportunities.
  • Women who are denied or unable to get an abortion are three times more likely to be unemployed and four times more likely to have a household income below the federal poverty level.
  • In addition to encouraging turnover and time off from work, state-level abortion restrictions can reduce labor force participation and earnings levels—costing state economies an estimated $105 billion per year.

Employers have a responsibility to address issues facing their workforce; otherwise, they risk suffering consequences in recruitment, retention, and productivity. Companies that provide access to reproductive health needs are better positioned to attract employees, establish a strong pipeline of talent, and deliver on diversity and inclusion goals—all of which contribute to a stronger bottom line and help prepare for increased scrutiny from stakeholders.

Only 10% of 300 companies surveyed in mid-2022 have made or plan to make a public statement about abortion following the Supreme Court’s decision.

Corporate Policies under Scrutiny

For companies and organizations operating in an employer-sponsored healthcare system, allowing states the right to decide whether to ban abortion makes access to reproductive healthcare a workplace issue. With nearly half of states expected to ban abortion, investors can press executives and boards of directors for specifics on how they will address women’s reproductive rights in both corporate decisions and policies.

Companies including Microsoft have promised to help cover travel costs for employees seeking access to an abortion. Google allows its employees the opportunity to relocate without justification to enable them to go where abortion is legal, and Patagonia and Live Nation will bail out employees arrested in peaceful demonstrations protesting the Supreme Court decision.

At the same time, the vast majority of companies have been silent on the issue. Only 10% of 300 companies surveyed in mid-2022 have made or plan to make a public statement about abortion following the Supreme Court’s decision. Many are addressing the issue internally, however, either by communicating information on existing healthcare benefits or announcing new policies around travel expenses or paid time off.

Some investors are taking on companies that claim to tout such equity and inclusion goals but still donate to efforts working to restrict access to abortion. For example, Rhia Ventures is working with a group of large investors to file shareholder proposals calling on companies to work on the repeal of abortion and discontinue their support of politicians and political committees that enact abortion restrictions.

Investor Support of Reproductive Healthcare

Access to reproductive healthcare is about more than just abortion. It also extends to expanding contraception, obstetric healthcare, parental leave policies, patient education, preventive care, access to diverse providers, mental health resources, robust insurance coverage, and childcare support. Policies that support women generally, and women’s health in particular, goes a long way toward realizing these goals.

Investors looking to promote access to reproductive healthcare may invest in companies and organizations that foster access to women’s reproductive healthcare and divest their portfolios from companies that donate to anti-choice politicians. Investors may also choose ESG mutual funds that engage directly with executives and boards to improve behavior.

Investors can also put their funds into nonprofits and funds dedicated to the issue.

  • Don’t Ban Equality, an initiative that promotes reproductive health as a workforce and economic issue, counts more than 500 companies signed on to it.
  • The Center for Reproductive Rights is a legal advocacy organization dedicated to advancing reproductive rights as a fundamental human right.
  • The Women’s Funding Network is a coalition of more than 120 women’s funds and foundations pledged to protect abortion access and reproductive justice.
  • Groundswell’s Catalyst Fund supports “grassroots organizing to advance reproductive justice policy and systems change.”
  • The National Network of Abortion Funds centers on the people who have abortions, working to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access by organizing at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice.

An election year ensures the issue of reproductive rights will remain at the top of the list of talking points for some time to come—raising the pressure on companies and organizations to be transparent in their approach to women’s reproductive rights. They may also look to supporting technologies and services that help expand rights and healthcare access. Investors can also make their opinion clear as well by selling shares of companies that don’t align with their beliefs and investing in those that do, as well as funds dedicated to supporting the issue.

Any company, security, fund or other investment identified herein is provided solely for illustrative purposes and should not be construed as a recommendation or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any such investment. By clicking on a weblink included in the above article, you may access a website operated by a third-party. Please review the website’s terms of use and privacy policy upon entering the site. We are not responsible for any content, links, products or services available on third-party websites.

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