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According to the Guttmacher Institute, the year 2021 saw the passing of the largest quantity of anti-abortion legislation since 1973, when a woman’s Constitutional right to have an abortion was established in the U.S.  And the U.S. Supreme Court still seems on track to either drastically weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade this summer.  Amid all the depressing news, however, there are some bright spots.  Most of the positive developments are outside of the U.S.—the vocal and successful women’s reproductive rights campaigns in various countries of Latin America, for example.  But a few recent actions in the U.S., including several by companies in the state of Texas, have pushed back against the vicious misogyny of many state legislators and their supporters.

Citigroup, a major financial enterprise with over 8,000 employees in Texas, has announced that it will pay travel costs for any of them who are affected by SB-8.  This is the Texas law that not only bans abortion after six weeks, but also threatens lawsuits against anyone involved in assisting someone to circumvent the law (for example, by facilitating travel of a Texas resident to a more woman-friendly state). 

The transportation companies Lyft and Uber have also announced policies in defiance of SB-8.  They have offered to pay expenses for any of their Texas-based drivers who might get sued for taking a woman to an abortion clinic.

Yelp, the online search and review company, has said that their over 200 employees in Texas will be reimbursed for expenses if they need to travel out of state for abortion care.  Moreover, representatives of Yelp have stated that the reproductive health guarantees offered to their Texas workforce will be extended to their employees in any state who might face “current or future action that restricts access to covered reproductive health care.”  Employees will be able to submit their requests for reimbursement of abortion-related medical expenses directly to Yelp’s health insurance provider, so neither fellow Yelp workers nor officious misogynists trying to enforce SB-8 or similar legislation will be able to track the persons involved.  This latest action builds upon several years of Yelp’s efforts in support of abortion rights.  The company does not allow anti-abortion entities of the “crisis pregnancy center” type to portray themselves neutrally or masquerade as abortion clinics.  And in the months leading up to the passage of SB-8 Yelp offered to double-match employees’ donations to reproductive health rights organizations opposing the legislation.

Yelp and Citigroup will support the expenses of employees in Texas who need to travel out of the state for abortion or other reproductive health needs; Uber and Lyft will cover the expenses of any driver who is sued for transporting a woman to get an abortion.

Meanwhile, back in the state of Maryland legislators are the latest to take a stand in defense of reproductive health rights.  A bill scheduled to take effect July 1 of this year allows nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and trained physicians’ assistants to perform abortions, requires insurance providers to cover abortion costs, and apportions $3.5 million per year for abortion training.  Maryland’s Republican governor Larry Hogan vetoed the bill, but under the leadership of the Speaker of Maryland’s House of Delegates, Democrat Adrienne A. Jones, the House overrode the veto by a vote of 90 to 46; and the state Senate concurred with a 29 to 15 override.  Maryland joins California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia in permitting abortion to be performed by medical professionals other than physicians, and it is one of sixteen states that provide at least some state funds for abortions.

Sources for this piece include the Guttmacher Institute website and April 10 and April 12 articles in the New York Times.

Adrienne A. Jones, Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates