How Employers Can Help Correct the Reproductive Health Crisis

Since the beginning of the pandemic, women have left the workforce in droves. And one of the largest factors for women staying in their jobs is their ability to plan when and if they want to become a parent, said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

That is why following the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, it is vital for employers to support women’s reproductive rights, she said Tuesday at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas.

“In taking away this right, we have also impacted people’s journeys throughout the economy,” Johnson said. “We know it will impact the economy upwards of a billion dollars annually. We know that so many of our gains have come because of investments around things like contraception.”

She also applauded the companies that have supported their workforce by ensuring travel benefits for abortion.

“Thank you for any company in the room who has stood with your workforce, immediately set up a policy to support your workers to ensure that they are able to get out of state in their travel benefits … All of that I think is incredibly important because what you did in standing with your workforce is also demonstrate where you sat on the issue,” she stated.

That said, it’s also important for employers to support their consumers and the communities they’re in, she added.

“You have a choice about where you do business, with whom you do business … Too many companies are supporting incredibly hostile lawmakers that are willing to essentially create legislation to turn us into second class citizens,” Johnson declared.

Dr. Neel Shah, chief medical officer of Maven Clinic, also stressed the importance of supporting reproductive rights in the workforce on a separate panel during the HLTH conference. Maven Clinic, a virtual clinic for women’s and family health, announced Monday that it secured $90 million in series E funding, led by General Catalyst.

“In a tight labor market, recruiting and retaining the best talent means caring about your reproductive age workforce,” Shah said. “It also turns out, because of all the inequity that’s baked into reproduction, if you care about diversity and equity and inclusion, this is really, really important too. Honestly, even in a looser labor market, this is the thing I would imagine if you’re an HR leader or a CEO or even a CFO where you want to achieve better health because if people are healthier, healthcare costs also go down.”  

Following the Dobbs decision, he said many employers went to Maven Clinic for advice on serving their employees. In response, the company made it easier for pregnant women to seek counseling on what their options are.

“I still see patients in my brick and mortar clinic every Wednesday afternoon because it’s so frequent,” Shah said. “You encounter people who are pregnant, and either their pregnancies are psychologically excruciating or medically dangerous or otherwise undesired and they need counseling … A lot of employers came to us for help and guidance, and not just around having a stance on the issue, but really to have solutions in place for their employees. So what we were able to do very quickly is stand up. We were already providing a lot of pregnancy options counseling, but we made it very accessible.”

Shah also stressed the importance of employers providing benefits for menopause.

“It’s not like a light switch,” he said. “It’s like a multi-year phase of life where people go through significant change, not just in terms of their physiology, but in terms of their full context of their lives.”

Despite recent disturbance in the women’s and family health sector, Johnson of Planned Parenthood said she is hopeful for the future.

“I’m incredibly hopeful watching Gen Z, I’m incredibly hopeful watching my kids, and the number of stakeholders that have come into our conversation that has traditionally just been a group of maybe radicals and mainstream feminists having this fight,” she said. “Now everyone understands that abortion is your business, too. Abortion affects men, surprise. Abortion affects companies and workforces, it affects the universities, it affects all of these folks who really didn’t think that this was their issue and now they are showing up.”

Photo: HLTH