I’m an Idaho employer. Here’s why I’m covering out-of-state abortion care for our employees.

Access to abortion deserves respect and protection from employers, especially when our state won’t, writes guest columnist Caitlin Copple Masingill.

U.S. Supreme Court building

The Guardian or Authority of Law, created by sculptor James Earle Fraser, rests on the side of the U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 28, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Al Drago/Getty Images)

The leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion was a gut punch to me. Knowing the makeup of the Supreme Court and watching abortion rights erode locally and nationally, I wasn’t surprised.

My home state of Idaho has a trigger law which would make all abortions illegal upon the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. When my government treats me as incapable of making my own reproductive health decisions, it makes me want to move myself and my business elsewhere, despite my family calling this place home for four generations.

I can’t change what SCOTUS may decide, so I decided to take immediate action in the areas where I do have some control. I made a monetary donation to a reproductive health care organization I trust. I donated to political candidates who believe, like me, that abortion should remain safe, legal and solely in the hands of the people faced with this decision. I also changed my company’s employee handbook to include a new policy that covers out-of-state travel expenses for employees who need abortion care and can no longer access abortion care in their state.

The ability to take actions like these comes from having some agency over my life. Upper-middle class women like me will always find a way to get an abortion if we need one. We’re also more likely to have health care and access to birth control, making the need for an abortion less likely. And, of course, if you have economic security, you may be more inclined to bring a child into the world because you can afford to care for them.

Public health data show abortion bans and restrictions disproportionately impact women with incomes below the federal poverty live, women in their 20s and Black women. Just like racism, our society has made abortion a hard issue to talk about. In the political demonization of abortion, the nuances of individual circumstances get lost in the righteous rhetoric of conservatives eager to overturn Roe v. Wade, allowing politicians to decide what is best for the rest of us. They’re not thinking about the woman who already has a 6-year-old and has recovered from the (sexist) disruption pregnancy and childbirth caused in her career. Now she’s 40 and finally landed her dream job, and she knows she’ll pay an economic price if she goes forward with an unplanned pregnancy.

The realities around abortion include people (especially those 15-19) who don’t know they are pregnant until after six weeks’ gestation, particularly if they have irregular periods or a history of infertility. The black-or-white political nature of abortion doesn’t consider what a SCOTUS ruling followed by Idaho’s trigger ban will mean for those who are undergoing IVF therapy, those with a history of miscarriage, or those who are in abusive relationships. It certainly doesn’t respect the medical doctors who care for people from diverse backgrounds and circumstances, and who take an oath to do no harm.

It’s odd to me that in Idaho, we seem to care more about fetuses than living babies. Nationally, Idaho ranks last in state spending on education. There’s still no public pre-K, and families, including mine, struggle to access quality affordable child care and often rely on family help. There’s no paid parental leave in Idaho unless your employer is kind enough to offer it. Health care is determined by your insurance policy, which is also in the hands of your (hopefully) benevolent boss.

In light of the impending SCOTUS decision, I hope others in Idaho’s business community will open their checkbooks to protect abortion rights and change internal policies however they can to support their employees who will inevitably flee the state to access to abortion care and avoid forced pregnancy.

While not everyone has had an abortion, all of us love someone who has. It’s an immeasurably complicated and private decision made for someone’s own health, livelihood and wellbeing. Access to abortion deserves respect and protection from employers, especially when our state won’t.

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Caitlin Copple Masingill
Caitlin Copple Masingill

Caitlin Copple Masingill is the founding partner at Full Swing Public Relations, which employs women in Idaho, Washington and New York. She lives in Boise with her young son.