More large law firms have confirmed they’ll pay for travel and out-of-state costs for personnel seeking abortions, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week overturning Roe v. Wade. Still, many other firms are keeping quiet on the issue.
The law firm announcements come after several corporations said they would cover costs for abortion access. Companies such as Disney, Tesla, Netflix, JPMorgan and others have already introduced policies to cover such costs, with some announcements coming after a draft of the decision was leaked last month.
More than two dozen Am Law 200 firms contacted by Law.com have yet to comment on the topic. Others have issued non-committal statements about whether they will pay for out-of-state costs for abortion services. But several others have confirmed, either to Law.com or in internal memos, that they will.
Brad Hildebrandt, a longtime law firm consultant, said each firm is looking at this in a different way. “There will be no ‘one way,’ and it can be very controversial. You have lawyers of all persuasions politically,” he said, later adding, “Law firms are trying to tread water here in a careful way. What’s best for the firm, its reputation and employees — those are complicated issues.”
For its part, McDermott Will & Emery chair Ira Coleman told employees in an email the firm will continue to ensure its employees and their family members’ health plans will cover reproductive healthcare regardless of location. “We will also pay for the cost of travel to obtain such services. Our full support of gender and health equity across all communities is unwavering,” he said in a firmwide memo.
A Proskauer Rose representative said that, in any state in which access to abortion or other reproductive health care procedures may be unavailable, the firm will provide paid time off and cover transportation and lodging costs for firm-enrolled plan participants and their dependents who need to travel outside of their home state.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, according to someone familiar with the firm, said the firm will continue to provide benefits that include travel and lodging for those who may need to access certain healthcare services that are not available within a 100-mile radius of the participant’s home.
Morrison Foerster said it will reimburse expenses for lodging, transportation and meals, up to $5,000, for those “who cannot receive a safe and legal abortion in their home state.” And the firm’s insurance provides coverage for the procedure itself.
A representative for Vinson & Elkins said the firm will “as part of its health plan, provide a travel benefit for covered health care services that are unavailable locally.”
Quinn Emmanuel confirmed it will cover out-of-state travel costs for medical expenses including abortion, while Susman Godfrey managing partner Kalpana Srinivasan told Law.com the firm would cover employee and dependent expenses and costs associated with traveling to another state for an abortion.
A representative for Morgan Lewis & Bockius also said the firm-sponsored ERISA health benefits plan covers abortion and also reimburses travel and lodging expenses when necessary to travel across state borders for such care.
Mayer Brown similarly said in a statement that its medical insurance plan in the U.S. covers the cost to travel for care “including abortion and other reproductive care, when such care is not available in the home community of plan participants, including covered family members.”
Law firms will need to navigate a host of HR and privacy issues to offer the benefit to their workforce. Some firm statements have alluded to this.
Cozen O’Connor, for instance, said in a statement it intends to cover transportation costs for employees and dependents for services that aren’t available in their area, while also noting there are “a variety of issues and mechanics that need to be reviewed and addressed” and if employees or dependents are in immediate need, they’re being asked to confidentially reach out to HR at the firm.
“Ensuring access to safe, legal, high-quality health care is one of our most important priorities,” Cozen added.
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati confirmed it is designing benefits to ensure continued access for reproductive healthcare that’s at risk. A spokesperson for the firm also confirmed it will “establish a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) to provide coverage for abortion services and travel for employees in states where care providers are limited or non-existent, and/or where state law may preclude such coverage on fully insured medical plans.”
Texas boutique firm Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Mensing said it will institute a program to reimburse employees for travel expenses incurred. ”Because AZA’s home state of Texas will no longer allow abortions and may restrict access to related care, the law firm will pay for travel to help employees and their family members access healthcare services they may not be able to obtain in this state. AZA will ensure that privacy rights are protected for anyone who uses this program,” the firm said this week.
‘Exploring’ a Path Forward
Meanwhile, some law firms have issued more ambiguous statements or said they are “exploring” the next steps.
Cooley said in an internal memo this week that it is “working to ensure that all of Cooley’s workforce has access to covered benefits, regardless of location.” And Dechert told employees this week, “We will be exploring ways to keep abortion services available to all U.S. employees, regardless of what state they live in, under our healthcare plan.”
A Goodwin representative said the firm is evaluating any next steps. A Mintz spokesperson similarly said that the firm is still evaluating the next steps but the firm does not have an office in a state that will likely be affected by the Supreme Court decision.
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan said firm leadership is “currently evaluating how best to support our community in all of its healthcare needs.” And Davis Wright Tremaine leaders told employees in a memo over the weekend that it is “exploring what we can do as the firm to support employees and their families that may be affected by this decision.”
Dickinson Wright simply said that it will support women colleagues in navigating the aftermath of the court’s ruling. ”We will consider all that entails in short order,” firm CEO Michael Hammer said in an email.
A Burr & Forman representative, when asked if the Alabama-based firm will pay for out-of-state abortion costs, said, “This is not something the firm has discussed.”
Jessie Yount, Brenda Sapino Jeffreys, Patrick Smith and Jacob Polacheck contributed to this report.