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Despite Political Polarization, There’s a Business Case for Reproductive Health

Laura Wise headshotWords by Laura Wise
Health & Education
Reproductive Health

A groundbreaking report outlines the business case for reproductive health. Rhia Ventures, a social impact investment firm focused on innovative solutions in reproductive health, published the report partnership with FSG, a social impact consulting firm.

The report, entitled Hidden Value: The Business Case for Reproductive Health, suggests five business drivers for providing comprehensive reproductive healthcare benefits in the workplace.

This report is informed by interviews and input from 39 companies across various industries. The roster of companies includes 24 Fortune 500s that together employ nearly 4.5 million people and operate across all 50 U.S. states. The authors of the report also engaged more than 50 experts in human resources, reproductive health, and insurance to understand how U.S. businesses currently approach and implement reproductive health policies.

The release of the Hidden Value report comes at a critical time when many believe that women’s reproductive rights are under attack.

Reproductive healthcare has become polarizing. Many pro-choice activists and supporters believe that reproductive healthcare, in all its forms, is a human right. Many pro-life activists, on the other hand, believe that access to reproductive healthcare — specifically abortion— should be outlawed. While this issue was once something that the business community shied away from, the CEO-led Business Roundtable's recently updated statement on “the purpose of a corporation” confirms that times are changing, and we should expect new standards for corporate leadership.

Restrictions state-by-state

Between 2011 and 2019, 482 abortion restrictions were enacted at the state level, with 58 abortion restrictions being passed in 2019 alone, according to the report. Some of the most visible 2019 bills were enacted in Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio.

From the perspective of employees, 6 in 10 (61 percent) of women would be discouraged from taking a job in a state that has tried to restrict access to abortion, according to Hidden Value surveys. In addition, 54 percent of men aged 18 to 44 say they would also be discouraged from taking a job in a state that has recently tried to restrict abortion access.

This poses a problem for companies looking to attract top talent but located in states with restrictive reproductive health policies. In the case of Georgia, where the bill was blocked from going into effect this year, a number of media companies have vowed to stop production in the state if the bill goes into effect.

Shelley Alpern of Rhia Ventures shed some light on gathering information for the report:

“The companies that we’re talking to are largely self-insured companies that can really dictate the terms of their [health] insurance coverage and don’t have to abide by all of the state restrictions around insurance. They can go beyond the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and make sure that all forms of birth control are covered; they can also make sure that abortion is covered without restrictions.”

A link to reproductive health and business

Hidden Value is quite timely given the uptick in recent conversations around reproductive healthcare in the workplace. In June of 2019, top executives from more than 100 companies signed a full-page ad featured in The New York Times criticizing recent abortion restrictions.

Under the umbrella of “Don’t Ban Equality,” leading brands across industries collectively stated: “Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health, independence and economic stability of our employees and customers. Simply put, it goes against our values and is bad for business.”

While reproductive health activists have long worked to highlight the link between reproductive health and business, data to support the conversation hasn’t been readily available on a wide scale. Rhia Ventures hopes to change that with Hidden Value.

The CEO and co-founder of Rhia Ventures, Lisa Hammann, describes the report as “a toolkit disguised as research.” Broken into five business drivers and two call-to-action statements, Rhia Ventures claims that executives and HR leaders can use this report as a guide for immediate action to raise questions about reproductive health in their own companies. Alpern adds that the report “can really be used for companies who are considering how they can close gaps and how they can audit their own internal policies.”

While women’s healthcare continues to play out in courtrooms across the country, Hidden Values shows us that when it comes to the business sector, the benefits of supporting reproductive health are vast. Companies that focus on and offer reproductive healthcare attract top talent, retain existing talent, provide high-impact benefits at a relatively low cost, promote diversity and inclusion, and create forward-thinking cultures.

“Investing in comprehensive healthcare access, including reproductive healthcare, is something companies cannot afford to overlook," Hammann said. "Providing these benefits maximizes the talent pool, helps attract and retain workers, builds diverse talent pipelines, and can yield significant cost savings when employees have control over when and if they become pregnant. Ultimately, this investment has a positive impact on a company’s bottom line.”

Image credit: Pixabay

Laura Wise headshotLaura Wise

Laura Wise writes and speaks about business, philanthropy, corporate social responsibility (CSR), technology, and entrepreneurship. You can check out her portfolio here

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