The Supreme Court of the United States overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on Friday, leaving abortion rights up to individual states and a great many people wondering what the hell happens next. Many entertainment companies have assured their employees that they will stand with their rank and file in defense of body autonomy, despite the recent rulings.
The Hollywood Reporter wrote on Friday that leading companies like Disney, Paramount, Comcast, Netflix, Sony, and Warner Bros. Discovery, as well as agencies like WME, CAA, and UTA, have sent memos to staff regarding their healthcare policies. The common thread is a travel reimbursement for people who would find themselves needing to leave their home state for an abortion.
Netflix maintains a travel reimbursement allowance totaling $10,000 for its full-time U.S. employees for medical concerns like cancer treatments, transplants, gender-affirming care, and abortion. Disney told its staff that travel is covered for those who can not access care in their state, including “pregnancy-related decisions.”
Paramount’s CEO Bob Bakish sent a memo noting the country’s “moment of profound uncertainty,” but wanted to reassure his employees. “[W]e want to be very clear about what will not change at Paramount,” his note continued, before outlining their benefits policy, which included travel reimbursements “if the covered health service, such as abortion, is prohibited in your area.”
Warner Bros. Discovery’s human resources department wrote “[g]iven the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the likely elimination of access to abortions in some states, we are immediately expanding our healthcare benefits options to include expenses for employees and their covered family members who need to travel to access a range of medical procedures, including care for abortions, family planning and reproductive health.”
Roger Lynch, CEO of Condé Nast, which owns V.F. and other publications like Vogue, Wired, Architectural Digest, The New Yorker, and GQ called the Supreme Court’s ruling “a crushing blow to reproductive rights that have been protected for nearly half a century,” and similarly announced “enhancements to our U.S. health benefits to assist covered employees and their covered dependents in obtaining access to reproductive care regardless of where they reside.”
As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, areas with so-called “trigger laws” have already found themselves with new rules in place. The State of Missouri (population: 6.1 million), which already had very restrictive laws in place, was first to announce that almost all abortions are effectively banned.
A big question mark is Florida (population: 21.7 million) where Disney, of course, maintains a large presence. Beginning July 1, a new law will go into effect that bans abortion after 15 weeks. (It currently stands at 24 weeks.) This change, however, is being challenged by two lawsuits—one from Planned Parenthood, another from Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor, a Jewish synagogue arguing that the restriction violates religious freedom.
Things are more dire in Georgia (population: 10.8 million), where Disney’s Marvel has a large production facility. With Roe v. Wade overturned, it is believed that a ban on abortion after six weeks, which was temporarily struck down in 2020, will likely become law. Individual cases in Georgia may get complicated, as many who work on projects that ultimately fall under the Disney umbrella could very well be contracted by smaller companies who may not have the same reimbursement policies.
Another question for companies is liability if laws become even more strict. In Texas (population: 29 million, more than the entire continent of Australia) any citizen is able to sue someone (inside or outside the state) if they “aid and abet” someone in receiving an abortion there. Though the law is extremely nebulous and has yet to be tested, legislators in Missouri have been considering going one further, and making it illegal to help someone even if that person leaves the state. The law seems preposterous, but recent events have shown that anything is possible.