A group of investors, including the New York City Comptroller and the California State Controller, has written 19 large employers in Texas, asking them to push the Texas governor to include abortions among surgeries that are “immediately medically necessary,” according to a copy of the letter reviewed by Barron’s.
The list of signatories include New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and California State Controller Betty Yee, as well as several other asset managers. Including the NYC and California pension plans, the list of signatories oversee more than $800 billion in assets. The list of companies include Texas-headquartered companies and large employers like
(T), Dell Technologies (DELL),
(XOM), Essilor USA,
(KM), as well as Amazon.com’s Whole Foods Market (AMZN),
’ Pizza Hut (YUM), and
Frito Lay (PEP). The companies will receive the letters on Monday.
On March 22, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order barring all surgeries and procedures that are not “immediately medically necessary.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the order applies to abortions, except when necessary to protect the woman’s life or health. The ban is currently slated to last until April 21, but the order is expected to be extended.
In several states, authorities in the South and the Midwest say that postponements of abortions are necessary to conserve protective equipment used for the pandemic. Aside from Texas, the other states include Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. While a Federal court blocked the Texas ban, it was overturned on appeal.
“There is no evidence that banning abortion will mitigate shortages of protective personal equipment [PPE],” according to the letter. “Most abortions use only minimal PPE and do not require any hospital resources.”
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, in an email to Barron’s, said, “As institutional investors, we’re urging companies to not only condemn Texas’ regressive, dangerous executive order, but to proactively protect their employees and ensure that their insurance coverage is comprehensive, affordable, and inclusive of the full range of reproductive healthcare.”
The letters, addressed to the corporate secretary and corporate general counsel, asked the companies to press lawmakers not to deny access to reproductive healthcare, and to ensure that their workers’ insurance covers abortion without restriction and contraception exceeding the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. It also asked employers to ensure that their healthcare provider could provide these services.
Investors have lately begun to tie reproductive health benefits to the attractiveness of an employer.
The letter pointed out that prenatal, maternal, contraception and abortion services may already be difficult to obtain in parts of the country where health-care systems are stretched as a result of coronavirus. Employees experiencing economic hardship may have difficulty covering out-of-pocket costs, while decreased public transportation may also make it harder to access healthcare. There is also evidence that domestic violence and rape are rising as families are isolated at home. Pregnancy also increases the risk of severe illness. “The Texas government’s actions compound these factors, generating an unnecessary crisis within a crisis,” the letter said.
“We have seen companies move swiftly to expand benefits in this crisis,” Shelley Alpern, director of corporate engagement at Rhia Ventures, said in an interview. Rhia Ventures, a venture capital firm focusing on contraceptive and maternal healthcare, is organizing the initiative. “The actions we’re asking them to do are not a heavy lift, even in the context of everything going on.”
Some 90% of women seeking abortions do so early in their pregnancy. Any delays mean they may be forced to seek late abortions, which are more expensive, less available, and more likely to compromise patient health.
According to polls conducted by PerryUndem Research, 56% of college-educated women say they wouldn’t apply for a job in a state that has recently banned abortion. In addition, 83% of women of reproductive age say they want their employers’ insurance to cover the full range of reproductive healthcare, including abortion.
In September, Barron’s reported that several institutions wrote to 30 companies asking them to answer questions about their provisions for reproductive health care, as well as the company’s public policies, disclosure and transparency. In particular, they looked at companies headquartered in states that limit reproductive healthcare.
Several of the recipient companies contacted by Barron’s didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Write to Leslie P. Norton at email@example.com