How Starbucks Plans To Protect Worker's Abortion Rights

Starbucks has become the latest major corporation to make its position on abortion rights known following Politico's release of a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion. According to the outlet, the document shows five of the court's conservative justices are planning to overturn 1973's landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which first guaranteed the right to choose based on the principle of the right to privacy. Although the decision is not officially finalized, the leak has caused politicians and corporations alike to begin planning for a post-Roe United States.

Starbucks announced on May 16, that it will cover travel expenses for employees enrolled in its health plan who need to travel more than 100 miles to obtain abortion services, according to The Associated Press. The outlet has reported that this benefit will also apply to the dependents of eligible employees. CNBC reports the policy aligns with Starbucks' previous liberal political stances which include support for marriage equality and refugees.

In a letter announcing the policy (via AP), Starbucks' acting executive vice president of partner resources Sara Kelly assured employees, "Regardless of what the Supreme Court ends up deciding, we will always ensure our partners have access to quality health care." 

Despite the pending court ruling, Axios reported polling done since the draft opinion leak shows that 60% of Americans believe abortion should be legal and available all or most of the time while only 5% believe the procedure should be entirely banned without exceptions, and 63% of the country opposes overturning Roe.

Supporting the right to choose

In pledging to assist employees and their families obtain medical care, Starbucks is joining other high-profile companies, including Amazon, Apple, Citigroup, Microsoft, Bumble, Lyft, and Tesla (per Forbes). It is the first restaurant chain to take such a stand, though DoorDash and Chobani have made similar pledges.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion would not become illegal in the United States but would be left up to individual states to decide, according to Business Insider. The outlet reports that 23 states would automatically ban or severely restrict access to abortion, with several others potentially moving to do so in the near future. People looking to terminate a pregnancy in those states would then have to travel to a state where the procedure is legal. Starbucks' plan would compensate employees for expenses incurred by such a trip. The Associated Press reports the plans also extend to employees seeking other hard-to-access or politically-targeted medical care including gender-affirming procedures.

While it hasn't been reported what percentage of Starbucks' 240,000 U.S. workers are covered by the company's health plan (via AP), full-time employees and part-time staff who work at least 240 hours in three months (or 20 hours a week) are eligible for the healthcare plan, according to the company's website. It is unclear when the benefit will take effect or if it will apply to workers at the 69 American stores which have recently voted to unionize (per CNBC).