Workers Worry: Growing Concerns About the Post-Roe Workplace
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- The U.S. Supreme Court recently returned the legal status of abortion to the states.
- As a result, many states have banned or severely prohibited access to abortion.
- Workers we spoke to are concerned about the impact this ruling will have on the workplace.
On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that established the constitutional right to privacy. That right extended to the decision to terminate a pregnancy.
But no more: "The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion," reads the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision. Instead, the legal status of abortion has been kicked back to states' legislatures.
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Abortion is now illegal or heavily restricted in 11 states, with at least 11 more poised to follow suit, says NPR.
What Will This Mean For Women and Work?
Nearly half of all workers in the United States are women. According to a 2022 report by Rhia Ventures, "86% of women state that controlling if and when to have children has been important to their careers" — and 24% of women have an abortion by age 45.
But suddenly, many folks who can get pregnant must grapple with a future that does not include reproductive freedom. What will this massive shift mean for the workplace?
Women and Babies May Not Receive Adequate Support
I'm concerned that women who get pregnant will be denied maternity leave. This would mean that they would have to return to work shortly after giving birth, which would be detrimental to their health and the health of their child. It could also lead to a lack of breastfeeding, which is critical for the health of both the mother and the child.
— Laura Helke, founder, WREI
Women May Become More Vulnerable to Termination
I work in the public school system. There is bias against single women having children. I fear some women could lose their jobs after they encounter an unintended pregnancy. It's difficult to take sick leave beyond one day. There will be problems for women when they need to take off for a week to travel across the country to find an abortion.
— Julie Federico, children's author and special education life skills teacher
Discrimination May Get Even Worse
The overturning of Roe v. Wade will surely mean more pregnancies in the workplace, which means women will be forced to take more time off, accept less responsibility, even lose their jobs.
“In the long term, employers may be able to get away with discriminating against people based on their potential to become pregnant. This could have a huge impact on women's ability to secure jobs and advance their careers, impacting their ability to earn a living and support their families.
— Daniel Chan, CTO, Marketplace Fairness
The Pay Gap Will Probably Widen
This decision is a scary thing for women in the workplace, a hindrance to their freedom and bodily autonomy. When women become mothers, the overall gender gap increases to 30%. The motherhood penalty is one reason many women wait until they are further along in their careers to have children. With the inevitable rise of unwanted pregnancies, we can expect the gender pay gap to rise as well.
— Sameera Sullivan, relationship expert
Educational and Professional Attainment for Women May Decline
I think, importantly, this decision will affect young women's educational attainment, which will mean they won't have access to higher-paying jobs and better roles. Studies have shown that abortion access leads to an increase in educational attainment for women.
— Nina Nguyen, sex educator, gender justice educator, LGBTQ+ expert
Some Folks May Leave Industries or States
I'm a 38-year-old nonbinary trans man. I work in construction in a red state. I'm very scared about this decision. It would be extremely difficult for any man or woman to do construction while pregnant. My assumption is that you will see a mass exodus of trans men from the construction industry in red states. My wife and I are already planning on moving to a state with proper abortion rights.
— James Gravy, construction worker
Others Will Choose Not to Accept Jobs in Anti-Abortion States
If I had a chance of being pregnant right now, I'd never consider a job in an anti-choice state. I would likely not even attend a conference in one, in case there was a sudden health issue and I needed to go to a local hospital.
—Lisa Dacey, operations director and senior consultant, 1892 Consulting
Mental Health and Performance Will Suffer
If you've ever had to concentrate at work while grieving an unsuccessful birth, experiencing the rollercoaster of trying to conceive, or breathing through the agony of endometriosis, you know how challenging it is to manage.
“Imagine working through an unwanted pregnancy, an unviable pregnancy, or a pregnancy that could put your life in extreme danger. Imagine how that psychological distress would impact your ability to do your job. This new decision will disproportionately impact the job performance of workers with uteruses. Consequently, those workers will be more likely to experience lower performance evaluations and slower career progression.
— Lorie Carson, founder and marketing manager, RealPeopleFinder
Gender Expectations May Grow More Fraught
The Supreme Court's decision strongly suggests that women are second-class citizens who are not entitled to control their bodies and actions. The lack of confidence from a powerful entity can heighten the challenges women already face in a world where they are held to different standards than men.
— Jason Courdes, founder, CocoLoan
Access to Healthcare Will Be Determined by Employers
Because so much coverage in our nation is provided by companies, corporations just became a safety net for reproductive care. Companies must ensure that employees who require abortion treatment are given enough paid time off to do so. They must ensure coverage and access to abortion, provide travel vouchers, subsidize trips, and make it possible for employees to relocate.
— Ellie Shippey, e-commerce growth specialist, EZ Contacts
Yes — corporate responsibility is now the new backstop to abortion care. Companies that don't adapt benefits packages to reflect that reality risk a steep drop in female job applications in the future.
— Mila Garcia, co-founder, iPaydayLoans