Walmart, largest U.S. private employer, expands abortion coverage for staff

Walmart is expanding its employee health-care plans to cover more situations in which its staff might seek an abortion, making the nation’s largest private employer the latest firm to offer enhanced access to reproductive health services after Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Arkansas-headquartered Walmart, which has 1.6 million employees in the United States, said it would cover abortions “when there is a health risk to the mother, rape or incest.” It will also pay for the procedure in the event of miscarriage, a lack of fetal viability or an ectopic pregnancy, when a fetus implants outside the uterus. The company will provide “travel support” for employees and dependents if they require access to a health service covered by Walmart’s insurance plan but there is no viable provider within 100 miles of their location.

Walmart’s top human resources officer said in an internal memo that the new benefits are effective immediately.

A trigger ban on abortions — with the exception of when the life of the pregnant person is at risk — took effect in Arkansas after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe, which had established a nationwide right to the procedure. About 53 percent of Walmart’s employees in the United States are women. It operates more than 2,000 stores in states that have either banned abortion or imposed near-total restrictions on the procedure.

Last year, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed the trigger ban into law, though he said earlier this month that he supports exceptions for rape and incest. There was no immediate reaction to Walmart’s move by senior GOP leaders in Arkansas, although the move was criticized by some antiabortion activists.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) speaks to reporters in Little Rock in 2021, after signing a bill with a trigger ban on nearly all abortions. (Andrew Demillo/AP)

Other companies that have offered support to employees seeking to terminate a pregnancy include Disney, which employs about 80,000 people in Florida, a state with a near-total ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Dick’s Sporting Goods has said it will reimburse employees up to $4,000 in travel expenses to the nearest location where abortion is legal. Lyft and JPMorgan, as well as Walmart competitors Target and CVS, have made similar moves.

In recent years, the retail giant and the Walton family have expanded their contributions to include liberal politicians and moderate Republicans. In 2020, Walmart gave comparable sums to Republican and Democratic politicians; that year, the family contributed more to Democratic congressional candidates.

This year’s donations from individual family members to GOP politicians include $17,400 to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who supports abortion rights and recently finished ahead of a candidate backed by former president Donald Trump in a Senate primary. They have also given $250,000 to the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump Republican group.

Walmart was one of dozens of companies that halted donations to lawmakers who voted against the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 victory after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

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