As the United States grapples with the issue of abortion, restaurants across the country are responding to the Roe v. Wade decision. There are many opinions as to what businesses ought to do.


The waitress who served you coffee yesterday feels unusually tired. She's been so exhausted the past few weeks that she can barely make it through her shifts. She may have called a clinic seeking an abortion, only to be told that her right to bodily autonomy has now been stripped away.

Courtesy the striking down of Roe v. Wade.

The 1973 decision that established abortion as constitutional right was overturned in 6-3 vote last week by the Supreme Court's conservative majority. The landmark piece of legislation established critical protections of an individual's reproductive rights. Not only in the United States, the ruling has served as the basis for the constitutional recognition of an individual's right to bodily autonomy, health care, and equality across the globe.

The effects of the unequivocal dismantling of this right will see 26 states outlaw or restrict access to abortions, leaving millions of American women and transgender men robbed of the most essential right over their bodies and vulnerable to criminal penalties.

The apex court's decision was met with horror and anger in equal measure and has drawn flak from various quarters. The seismic court ruling saw thousands taking the streets across the nation to express their anguish.

Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was one of the first to criticize the ruling. “The news coming out of the United States is horrific,” he said in a statement. “My heart goes out to the millions of women who are now set to lose their legal right to an abortion. I can't imagine the fear and anger you are feeling right now.”

Former US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron were some of the world leaders who condemned the decision. “Today, the Supreme Court not only reversed nearly 50 years of precedent, it relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues—attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans,” tweeted Obama.

In the wake of the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade, some food corporations have offered to provide financial assistance to employees seeking similar medical procedures across state lines. They have come forward to extend their support and offer “health packages” to employees seeking medical care that may not be permitted in their state. This small group of food businesses includes bigwigs such as Starbucks, DoorDash, Yelp, Impossible Foods and GrubHub.


The global coffee chain declared its support for employees seeking abortions and gender-affirming procedures in May this year. Starbucks is the first major restaurant firm to offer its employees, to their partners and other dependents such a benefit, provided they are enrolled for the reimbursement. The company's senior vice president, Sara Kelly, was quoted to say, “It doesn't matter what you believe, it doesn't matter where you live, it's about access to health care”.

The company has built a reputation for itself as a champion of liberal causes. It has, in the recent past, vociferously supported same-sex marriages as well as transgender rights. The coffee chain
has also been applauded for its hiring refugees program, where they pledged to employ over 10,000 displaced people worldwide.


In April this year, the hugely popular business review website expanded their existing health benefit program to include the expenses of employees and their spouses travelling for abortion care. Their program covers the procedure as well, and was announced soon after Texas banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

In his public statement following the striking down of Roe v Wade, Yelp's CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, encouraged other business leaders to work out similar health benefit schemes for their employees. “This ruling puts women's health in jeopardy, denies them their human rights, and threatens to dismantle the progress we've made toward gender equality in the workplace since Roe," he said in a statement, adding, “business leaders must step up to support the health and safety of their employees by speaking out against the wave of abortion bans that will be triggered as a result of this decision, and call on Congress to codify Roe into law.”

“I think it really comes down to equal access to care. In order to safeguard employees and make sure that they can get the healthcare that they need, no matter what state they live in, we need a benefit like this,” Miriam Warren, Yelp's chief diversity officer, further added.


The food-delivery giant announced that it will cover certain travel-related expenses for employees, and their dependents, who may choose to travel to access abortion care. On the heels of the apex court's decision, DoorDash's spokesperson said, “It's paramount that all DoorDash employees and their dependents covered on our health plans have equitable, timely access to safe healthcare”.


The food delivery company is offering its employees up to $4000 per year for travel expenses related to medical procedures that may not be available in their state of residence. In a strong statement, their spokesperson said, “Grubhub is committed to providing access to safe health care for each and every one of our employees, regardless of where they live”.

However, it is unclear if these benefits extend to Yelp and GrubHub's delivery partners, who are contractual employees with these companies.

Impossible Foods

Along with covering travel expenses, Impossible Foods has announced that it will also furnish credit for lodging, meals and child care for employees seeking abortions out of state. CEO Peter McGuinness put out the following on LinkedIn- “Supporting our colleagues in their reproductive health is absolutely the right thing to do”.


While the commitment of these companies to helping their employees gain access to abortion care must be lauded, it is essential to note that criminalizing abortion clamps down on safe reproductive care and affects millions of people not employed by these global or national giants. It will force women and trans people employed in the food industry to resort to perilous abortion procedures.

The pro-choice research and policy organization, Guttmacher Institute, released a report that stated that legal restrictions will not thwart unintended pregnancies or demand for abortion. In impeding an individual's ability to access reliable medical care, what these bans do is cause individuals in need of abortions immense physical and psychological stress.

“Evidence also shows the disproportionate and unequal impact abortion restrictions have on people who are already marginalized and oppressed - including Black and Brown communities, other people of color, people with low incomes, young people, LGBTQ communities, immigrants and people with disabilities,” Dr Hermania Palacio, the institute's president, said in a statement.

Major players in the food and beverage industry are bound to find themselves in an extremely polarized abortion landscape. While the measures undertaken by the aforementioned companies reflect, to some extent, an increased sense of responsibility towards their employees, they also allude to their commitment to ensuring that women and trans people continue to participate in America's social and economic life.

There will most certainly be companies that might attempt a balancing act between pro-choice and anti-abortion activists. However, mounting pressure from investors, employees and customers should spur more food and beverage companies to continue to treat access to medical care — including and especially reproductive — as an essential right and offer support to their employees.