On Our Minds
Last year, the Supreme Court overturned the constitutionally protected right to abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—stripping millions of Americans of their bodily autonomy and access to reproductive healthcare.
Since then, the Public Rights Project has worked tirelessly to defend reproductive rights both in the courtroom and for its own team. I sat down with Founder and President Jill Habig to learn how PRP is supporting employees’ physical and mental health in a post-Dobbs world. Here’s what I learned.
How to choose an insurance plan
Go beyond abortion care
When choosing a new benefits package for their employees post-Dobbs, the first thing PRP considered was ensuring that abortion care was covered in every policy they offered. But, securing abortion coverage was just the start.
“The anti-bodily autonomy decisions that are coming down from the Supreme Court throw into question a lot of other fertility and reproductive healthcare needs,” Jill told me. It was important for PRP to find policies that include the full range of reproductive care, from IVF to contraception and beyond. As a result, they chose to add additional coverage to their policies, including Kind Body Fertility Services, which offers a 20% discount on any fertility services that aren’t covered by the existing plan.
Include travel benefits
For organizations with a largely remote workforce, it’s not enough to make sure policies include reproductive and gender-affirming health care. Employees, no matter where they live, need to be able to access that care, too. One way to do this is to include travel benefits.
At PRP, every policy includes benefits that cover a certain amount of travel for any type of medical care, including gender-affirming care and specialty services not available in their area. This helps ensure all PRP employees are able to get the care they need, whether they’re managing a rare illness and need to travel to see a specialist or living in a state that is restricting bodily autonomy through anti-trans and anti-abortion legislation.
Jill warns that states hostile to abortion access may target organizations that help their employees travel to access abortion care or the person seeking care themselves. PRP has done what it can to structure its policies—especially those around travel—to be neutral, meaning that they aren’t abortion-specific policies and employees can access them for a variety of conditions. For example, an employee would not have to disclose to PRP directly the exact reason that they’re using the travel stipend, and PRP’s sick leave policy is flexible enough that employees can access PTO without needing to provide specifics. These precautions are important to ensure the travel policies are safe and usable, not only for those accessing reproductive care but gender-affirming care as well.
Make every plan available a really good plan
If you’re going to offer multiple plans, it's important to ensure that each plan—including the least expensive—provides strong baseline coverage. Some employees will choose the least expensive plan and if it doesn't cover an employee’s full needs, then it's a waste of money for both the employee and the employer.
“So often,” Jill said, “the cheapest plan available to you actually covers very little, and if you want to actually access a policy that covers your full needs, you're going to have to pay a lot more for that policy.”
However, this doesn’t mean that you can only offer plans that break the bank. At PRP, the most an employee can pay in insurance premiums is $10 a month.
Advocate your provider
“We had to be really vocal about what we wanted,” Jill said about working with PRP’s insurance provider and PEO (the company they use to coordinate employee benefits across states) to find plans that include the full range of abortion coverage, travel benefits, fertility services, and other related benefits.
Neither their insurance provider nor their PEO was well-versed in the extent of reproductive care benefits in their standard plans. But, when PRP asked they learned about the full extent of benefits available and what could be easily added to the standard plans.
In fact, the insurance provider told the PRP team that they had been receiving similar questions and requests from other employers. As a result, they started to include more expansive reproductive care offerings and providing more transparent information to organizations. So, advocating for your employees may not only make a big difference for your own team, but it can change the standard industry practice as well.
Going beyond insurance benefits
Offer generous paid family leave
Supporting reproductive health means offering employees the benefits they need to make their own choices about their bodies, whether they’re choosing to terminate a pregnancy or expand their family. That’s why PRP sees paid family leave as central to reproductive health.
PRP offers twelve weeks of fully paid family leave to all employees, regardless of the paid family leave policy in an employee’s state. Providing the same, robust benefit across the board is important to ensuring that the organization isn’t inadvertently creating inequality among its employees.
Check-in with employees
The most important thing is to ask your staff what they need. Before rolling out their insurance plans, PRP surveyed their employees to determine what they liked and didn’t like about their old plan. And, they try to approach organizational culture the same way, using tools like Culture Amp and creating custom surveys to check in with their team periodically, not just following big events like Dobbs.
Their internal DEIB working group has also started running “listening sessions,” virtual spaces for people to come and process and share whatever they’re going through, whether it's the impact of a difficult world event, something that's uplifting them, or a personal challenge. There are no formal agenda or action items. It’s just a space for people to be in community, which is especially crucial in a remote work environment.
Remember your values
Organizations need to stand by their employees in public, not just behind the scenes. For PRP, an organization that actively works to advance access to abortion and reproductive rights, ensuring that their employees have access to reproductive care is also a matter of aligning their internal policies with their values and external programmatic work.
But even for organizations that don’t work on reproductive health issues, offering robust reproductive care to their employees and publicly stating their support for reproductive justice lets employees know that they are supported.
And, today, in the wake of the pandemic and the Great Resignation, it is more important than ever to make sure employees feel supported.
A year later, we know that the Dobbs decision was just the beginning of attacks on bodily autonomy and reproductive rights. PRP continues to track legislation and challenge restrictions on reproductive access across the United States. And, Jill recognizes that as legal access to reproductive care changes, PRP and other employers’ policies will have to change too.