Update: This story has been updated to include a response from Gap.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – After the recent enforcement of Ohio’s six-week abortion ban, some of central Ohio’s largest private employers pledged to cover abortion-related travel expenses – or other insurance benefits – for employees in need.
NBC4 reached out to the largest 25 private employers in the Columbus metropolitan area, based on a 2020 list compiled by the city. Twelve responded to inquiries about the company’s reproductive health benefits.
“Health-related decisions are among the most personal, and Intel respects the rights and privacy of our employees to choose what best meets their health needs,” said a spokesperson for Intel, whose $20 billion computer chip factory in Licking County is set to bring 3,000 jobs to Ohio by 2025.
Abortion bans could be bad for business, many companies say
In the days that followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, major national companies like Apple, Netflix, and Lyft pledged to cover travel expenses for employees in need of abortions.
Some of those companies went as far as condemning abortion bans as bad for business, citing estimates from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research that found prohibitions on abortion could cost states $105 billion annually by stymieing the labor force.
“Simply put, public policies that restrict reproductive health care, including the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, go against our values and are bad for business,” a Don’t Ban Equality letter signed by hundreds of U.S. corporations said. “It impairs our ability to build diverse and inclusive workforce pipelines, recruit top talent across states, and protect the well-being of all the people who keep our businesses thriving day in and out.”
|Rank||Company||Full-time area employees (2019)||Responded?|
|3.||Honda (U.S. HQ)||11,077||YES|
|4.*||Victoria’s Secret (HQ)||7,662 (prior to becoming its own company in 2021)||YES|
|6.*||Bath & Body Works (HQ)||5,000 (as of July 7, 2022)||YES|
|10.||Bread Financial (HQ)||3,000||NO|
|Intel (Upcoming)||3,000 by 2025||YES|
|11.||Abercrombie & Fitch (HQ)||2,598||YES|
|16.||DHL Supply Chain (U.S. HQ)||2,192||YES|
|17.||Abbott Nutrition (HQ)||2,055||NO|
|20.||TS Tech (U.S. HQ)||1,789||NO|
|25.||Worthington Industries (HQ)||1,625||NO|
Abortion, travel expenses covered by many central Ohio employers
A spokesperson for JPMorgan Chase, the largest private employer in Ohio with more than 20,000 employees, said the investment banking firm’s U.S. Medical Plan will provide travel benefits for medical procedures, including abortion, that can only be obtained 50 miles from one’s home.
Cardinal Health, the fifth-largest employer in central Ohio, will both cover elective abortions and provide up to $4,000 in travel and accommodation costs for abortion, IVF, and gender-affirming care, a spokesperson said via email.
The Columbus-headquartered Victoria’s Secret & Co. — which hailed itself as a champion for women’s rights — provides its employees with a suite of reproductive benefits, including abortion-, adoption- and infertility-related services.
“VS&Co supports a woman’s right to choose, including equal access to safe reproductive and abortion care provided by medical professionals,” a spokesperson said in an email. “We support choice, because we believe in women and trust them to make decisions that are right for them.”
Other companies that pledged to cover Ohioans’ travel expenses for abortion services include Abercrombie & Fitch, AEP, Discover, Bath & Body Works, Intel, and UnitedHealth Group.
While the health care plan of Nationwide Insurance, the second-largest central Ohio employer, does not cover abortion-related travel expenses, a spokesperson for the insurance company said employees can use flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) toward the costs.
“As a company that values people, Nationwide recognizes that medical decisions and family planning are deeply personal,” a Nationwide spokesperson said in an email. “We are monitoring this new development and, over the coming weeks, will determine any implications to our policies and benefits.”
Located in Marysville, Honda employs more than 11,000 central Ohioans at its auto plant. A spokesperson said the Japanese car manufacturer will provide coverage for abortion procedures “in limited instances” and continues to weigh its options.
Gap, whose workforce is 67% women, covers adoptions, surrogacy, fertility treatments, paid parental leave, contraception and abortion, a spokesperson said in an email.
“Any employee covered under Gap Inc.’s UnitedHealthcare plans can access our benefits in any state, either that they reside in or travel to, now or in the future,” the spokesperson said. “We are committed to supporting all employees through these important life decisions—no matter where they live or which path they take.”
A spokesperson for central Ohio’s 15th largest private employer, DHL Supply Chain, said the logistics company could not comment, as it continues to review the impacts of Ohio’s six-week abortion ban on its workforce.
Do state employees get abortion-related coverage?
Under state law, public employers are prohibited from funding abortions for their employees.
But abortion-rights groups like Women Have Options Ohio and Faith Choice Ohio are financially supporting Ohioans in need of the service — whether that be lodging costs or travel expenses — regardless of their employer.
“We support with anything that helps them from getting to point A when they decide to have an abortion to point B when they actually decide to get the abortion,” Women Have Options Ohio Board Chair Jordyn Close said.
Close said that WHO/O has supported about 500 patients since the beginning of the year but anticipates that number to surge as the state’s six-week abortion ban was enforced just hours after the fall of Roe v. Wade.
While it used to be rare for Close to run into people who knew about the 30-year-old abortion fund, Close said more Ohioans are aware of WHO/O’s services as the U.S.’s abortion landscape dramatically shifts.
“No one knew who we were one or two years ago, and so it’s been a silver lining in all of the chaos,” Close said.
Below are the 12 statements, in full, NBC4 received from the companies that responded, ordered by number of local full-time employees:
JPMORGAN CHASE: “Our benefits, which includes travel benefits for any covered service that can only be obtained more than 50 miles from one’s home. Previously, health care travel benefits only covered certain services like organ transplants and bariatric surgery. Abortion has long been a covered service, and would now be in scope.”
NATIONWIDE: “As a company that values people, Nationwide recognizes that medical decisions and family planning are deeply personal. We are monitoring this new development and, over the coming weeks, will determine any implications to our policies and benefits.
Nationwide’s health plan covers expenses related to women’s reproductive care, including termination of pregnancy.
While our health plan does not cover travel expenses for medical treatment associated with reproductive care, associates can use accumulated FSA/HSA funds for travel needs related to covered medical treatment.”
HONDA: “Our focus at Honda is on continuing to provide high-quality healthcare services available to all of our associates through our comprehensive healthcare plan. Our current plan provides coverage for reproductive health benefits, including abortion procedures in limited instances. We are evaluating our options to ensure our associates and covered dependents can access our current health plan benefits.”
VICTORIA’S SECRET: “As a company committed to being an advocate for women and championing their journeys, we believe a woman’s right to self-determination is fundamental. When women make decisions about their lives for themselves, they are able to participate fully and equally in society, families and communities grow stronger, cultures grow richer and the trajectory of the world bends toward equality. For those reasons VS&Co supports a woman’s right to choose, including equal access to safe reproductive and abortion care provided by medical professionals. We support choice, because we believe in women and trust them to make decisions that are right for them.
We are proud to provide a suite of reproductive benefits and will continue to add to and improve these benefits in support of our associates.”
BATH & BODY WORKS: “Our benefit plans cover a wide range of reproductive services, including contraception, abortion (medically necessary and elective), and fertility treatments. Coverage also includes travel reimbursement to receive safe, high-quality reproductive healthcare that is not available within 100 miles of your home.“
CARDINAL HEALTH: “To ensure equal access and appropriate medical care and healthcare benefits for all our employees, no matter where they live, effective August 2022, our benefits plan will cover:
1. Elective abortions;
2. Transportation and accommodation costs up to $4,000 for employees and their covered dependents who are unable to access this care within their state, and
3. Transportation and accommodation costs up to $4,000 for employees and their covered dependents to access IVF and gender-affirming care.
This travel policy is consistent with our existing benefits program, which covers travel expenses for medical procedures that are unavailable where employees live, such as bariatric, cancer, congenital heart disease and transplant programs.”
AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER: “AEP is committed to the health and wellbeing of our employees and their families. For years, we have provided comprehensive healthcare benefits to our employees and their families, including plan benefits for those who may need to seek healthcare services that are unavailable in their home state. This decision does not change those benefits.”
INTEL: “Intel is committed to supporting employees and to continuing to offer them comprehensive healthcare. Health-related decisions are among the most personal, and Intel respects the rights and privacy of our employees to choose what best meets their health needs. Our U.S. healthcare options cover a wide range of medical treatments, including abortion, as part of our overall family planning benefits. Intel will continue to provide resources for those who need to travel for safe, timely healthcare.”
ABERCROMBIE & FITCH: “For Abercrombie & Fitch Co. associates across the U.S. enrolled in our healthcare program, including their dependents, reproductive healthcare benefits are offered for both in-state and out-of-state. In addition to this, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. provides a travel and lodging reimbursement benefit for out-of-state care.
We remain committed to being there for our associates on their journeys, and we are proud to provide them with options — if and however they choose to use them.”
DISCOVER: “For Discover employees enrolled in BlueCross BlueShield, those medical plans will provide travel expense assistance for employees and their covered dependents to access certain reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming care, including abortion services. Travel expense assistance will be provided for these services where access to care is unavailable in a member’s home location.”
DHL SUPPLY CHAIN: “We are still reviewing this development and its implications for our workforce. We are unable to provide any comment at this time.”
UNITEDHEALTH GROUP: “Yes, we are covering travel benefits for employees in our self-funded medical plans.”
GAP: “At Gap Inc., we know that a strong workforce starts with the health and well-being of all our employees—76% of whom are women. At a recent employee event, we shared with our teams the wide range of mental health and family planning benefits we offer—because we know it is important to support our employees, regardless of whether, how or when they decide to start a family.
Some of those benefits include coverage of adoptions, surrogacy, fertility treatments, paid parental leave, contraception, and abortion.
Any employee covered under Gap Inc.’s UnitedHealthcare plans can access our benefits in any state, either that they reside in or travel to, now or in the future. We are committed to supporting all employees through these important life decisions—no matter where they live or which path they take.”