Tech companies will cover abortion trips—but not for all workers

Apple, Meta, Microsoft and Uber also rely on large groups of TVC or gig workers and have announced abortion travel benefits for their employees. When asked if non-employees were covered, Microsoft spokeswoman Michelle Micor declined to answer; the other three companies did not respond.

Ironically, workers excluded from abortion travel benefits are more likely to need it than full-time workers, given their generally lower compensation. In 2015, the Brookings Institution found that people with family incomes below the federal poverty line, who have less access to contraception and family planning education, are 5 times more likely than wealthier people to experience an unintended pregnancy. Blacks and Hispanics are overrepresented among those seeking abortions.

People with lower incomes are also less likely to have health insurance that covers abortion. In 2014, the most recent year for which the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit abortion policy organization, has data, only 31 percent of people seeking abortion care had any private health insurance. Another 35 percent is covered by Medicaid, which excludes most abortion coverage in the 34 states that won’t fund it.

Experts say there are many ways tech companies can support TVCs and gig workers in the post-Roe USA, if they want. Shelley Alpern, director of corporate engagement at Rhia Ventures, a social impact investment firm that files shareholder resolutions that pressure companies to support reproductive rights, said those steps include establishing a travel fund that could be used temporarily by performers, suspending political donations to politicians against abortion, and contacting legislators to oppose anti-abortion policies. Big companies “are like sleeping giants in this regard,” says Alpern.

Other options for corporations looking to make a difference include donating to local abortion funds where they do business or have employees, says Liza Fuentes, a senior researcher at the Guttmacher Institute. “It’s pretty low-hanging fruit and it’s desperately needed,” says Fuentes. She says tech companies could work with the National Abortion Fund Network, which allows donors to allocate funds to specific communities, and groups like the Brigid Alliance, which organizes and funds abortion care and travel for people in need.

Some full-time employees at tech companies are pressuring their own bosses to take some of those steps to support access to abortion. The The Washington Post announced last month that workers at Amazon, Microsoft and Google circulated petitions and internal messages urging their companies to commit to protecting the privacy of users seeking abortions.

In her statement calling on Alphabet to extend abortion travel benefits to TVCs, the AWU’s Cole said the company should also end donations to anti-abortion politicians and establish privacy protocols to protect Google users seeking information about abortion access. “History has proven that a Supreme Court decision will not stop abortion, it will only stop safe abortion,” she wrote. “Google can do more to ensure that all workers and users have the information and resources they need to safely access reproductive health services.”

A day after the AWU released its statement, Google announced privacy updates, which include deleting visits to an abortion clinic from a user’s location history. Software engineer and executive board member Ashok Chandwaney acknowledged the changes, but reiterated that the company must go further to protect user and worker privacy and expand access to abortion for all of its workers. “Our organizing will continue,” he wrote.

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