Yelp, other companies take stance on abortion rights with travel benefit

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(Reuters) – Yelp (NYSE:YELP) Inc,, and Citigroup are among a small but growing number of companies rolling out policies to cover costs for American employees who need to travel out of state for an abortion.

Yelp Inc was one of the first to offer support for its employees who might need to travel out of state for access to abortion, a decision the company says was made to ensure its workers have equal access to healthcare.

A crowd-sourced platform for reviews of businesses including restaurants and hotels, Yelp started this month offering the healthcare travel benefit to U.S. employees.

“I think it really comes down to equal access to care. In order to safeguard employees and make sure that they can get the healthcare that they need, no matter what state they live in, we need a benefit like this,” Miriam Warren, Yelp’s Chief Diversity Officer told Reuters.

Yelp and Citigroup, Levi Strauss & Co (NYSE:LEVI) and Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) have all pledged to pay for employees’ travel to obtain abortions while Oklahoma, Texas and other Republican-led states clamp down on access.

Some major employers, such as Walmart (NYSE:WMT) Inc, Target Corp (NYSE:TGT) and Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) Co, have declined to weigh in since the leak to Politico this week of a Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn its 1973 decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

Some could be fearful of a growing trend among politicians in Republican-led states to punish companies for their stances on social issues.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a rising star in the Republican party, signed a bill in April stripping Disney of self-governing authority at its Orlando-area parks in retaliation for its opposition to a new state law that limits the teaching of LGBTQ issues in schools.

Dozens of U.S. House Republicans in April demanded that the chamber drop Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C) as its provider of credit cards for lawmakers, after the financial institution offered to pay travel costs for employees seeking abortions.

The issue has gained urgency now that 31 states have introduced abortion bans this year, according to policy analysis by research group Guttmacher Institute.

By offering support for employees who may need to travel out of state for abortions, Yelp and other companies hope to gain an edge attracting and retaining talent as well as appearing socially responsible to investors.

“For companies who care about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging, they can’t sit by and be silent on this issue because it really does impact every aspect of a woman’s life,” said Yelp’s Warren.

But speaking out on social issues can carry the risk of losing customers and employees who disagree with a company’s stance.

“Companies must carefully navigate such issues, as to avoid offending internal stakeholders as well as the external community,” said Izzy Kushner, president of human resources consultancy HR Impact.