We Can’t Fix Our Labor Market Without Ensuring Reproductive Rights

Published may. 11, 2022

Last week we learned about the leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade, a sign the Court will likely make women’s legal access to abortion a state-by-state decision. As a woman, a mother, and a Catholic, I know how deeply personal these issues can be for so many.

While sentiment on this issue exposes deep divides in our country, it also highlights a great rift in our labor market: the lack of access that women in the workforce have to safe and reliable health care, including abortion. For many women, particularly women working in low-wage jobs and women of color, this access can mean the difference between economic insecurity and economic advancement. As advocates for equitable economic advancement for all, we support employers who are taking steps to ensure their employees have access to reproductive health care, including abortion, and we encourage other employers to do so.

As a woman, a mother, and a Catholic, I know how deeply personal these issues can be for so many.

Maria Flynn, President and CEO, JFF

Jobs for the Future (JFF) is equally committed to supporting our employees in accessing the resources they need to succeed. As our employee base grows geographically, we want to ensure that everyone at JFF has access to safe and reliable health care and reproductive services. As a result, we are expanding our benefits to enable care for those who seek it, including designing a solution to reimburse employees for travel expenses associated with health care services. We will ensure that any use of this benefit guarantees privacy and safety.

JFF’s benefit will include:

  • Reimbursement covering up to $4,000 per year when employees and their dependents are forced to travel more than 100 miles for health services, including reproductive care such as abortions
  • Reimbursement can be applied to transportation, lodging, and other travel-related expenses incurred when accessing these health services

We are committed to equity and supporting the rights of women and other people across the gender spectrum, no matter where they reside. This new policy complements our inclusive parental leave policy, implemented in 2020, that provides paid leave of 14 weeks for all JFF employees.

Multiple surveys of women who have had abortions cite socioeconomic concerns as one of the primary factors leading to the decision. In one study of nearly 1,000 women, 40 percent who sought abortions cited financial reasons as a factor in their decision, according to a recent Quartz at Work report. “And because many women’s ability to prioritize financial stability and pursue careers is indelibly tied up with their having a choice about when and whether to have children, abortion access has a direct impact on their role in the workplace,” the report states. “In places where abortion access is restricted, the time and money involved in crossing state lines for medical services may make getting an abortion next to impossible.”

For many women, particularly women working in low-wage jobs and women of color, this access can mean the difference between economic insecurity and economic advancement.

And as is true with most socioeconomic issues in our country, the impact on Black communities would be disproportionately harsh due to structural barriers, including inadequate health care and insurance coverage, that contribute to unplanned pregnancies. Black women receive about a third of all abortions in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At JFF, our mission is to achieve equitable economic advancement for all.

We consistently urge policymakers, institutions, and corporations to consider the impact our systems have on helping or hindering access to economic advancement for learners and workers. For many women, access to health care and child care services weighs heavily on their ability to advance in the workplace. Regardless of the upcoming Supreme Court decision, we will continue to encourage those in a position to effect systems change to consider all barriers to achieving these goals.

Like we have before, we are witnessing a moment in the history of our country that will find many of us on different sides of the debate. During these moments of tension and division, I want to encourage us to find common ground. It’s essential to acknowledge that while we may not all agree on every issue, there are certain causes that bind us together. At JFF, that cause is our mission, and we strive to live up to that mission together.