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People take part in a protest to denounce the United States Supreme Court's decision to overturn the law that provided the constitutional right to abortion for almost 50 years, in Montreal on Sunday, June 26.Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Chief executives who have not yet announced whether they will enhance health benefits for U.S. employees must take a position on abortion rights so workers know what will be covered – or not covered – by group health care plans, the chief executive officer of the Women Corporate Directors Foundation says.

“Historically, no CEO would ever want to wade into the abortion issue,” Jennifer Reynolds, who works with more than 2,500 female corporate board directors, said during an interview with The Globe and Mail. “It is polarizing, but today leaders and companies are expected to speak out on a much broader array of issues than they ever have in the past. Both their employees and their customers expect it.”

What access to abortion looks like across Canada

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 ruling that established the constitutional right to abortion and legalized it around the country. The U.S. court also voted 6-3 to uphold a Republican-backed Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The result could now lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.

Within hours of the ruling, more than a dozen large U.S. corporations publicly announced they will provide travel benefits for any out-of-state legal abortions.

That number has now jumped to more than 50 organizations in the U.S. saying they will cover travel costs for employee abortions, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Disney, Meta and Google.

Abortion tourism a concern in Canada, but out of reach for most Americans, say advocates

With Roe v. Wade reversal, U.S. Supreme Court gives states free rein over abortion rights

But in Canada the response has been much slower.

Just a handful of Canadian companies with major operations in the United States confirmed as of Tuesday that they will cover the cost of out-of-state travel for legal abortions for their U.S. employees.

Bank of Nova Scotia, payments processor Nuvei Corp., Bank of Montreal, Toronto Dominion Bank and Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada are the latest Canadian companies to announce travel reimbursements for U.S. employees.

Nuvei chief executive Philip Fayer posted on LinkedIn that the company would reimburse up to $4,000 in travel expenses for any employee in the United States who has restricted access to abortion.

In an internal memo sent to its U.S. employees, Scotiabank confirmed all employees have access to abortion coverage under the company’s medical plan, and the bank will pay for travel costs for employees in states that restrict access to abortions.

CIBC has enhanced its U.S. benefits coverage for employees in states where abortion is not legally available to include a reimbursement up to US$4,000 for any associated travel costs, such as transportation, accommodation and food. The benefit is also for any covered family member, plus one travel companion to “ensure safe and legal access to these medical services,” CIBC spokesperson Tom Wallis said in an e-mail.

TD Bank currently has about 25,000 employees in its U.S. retail arm. That number will increase – especially throughout the southeast – later this year after it closes a deal to purchase Memphis, Tenn.-based First Horizon Corp.

A TD spokesperson confirmed the bank is “working” with its U.S. providers to offer travel coverage for “any and all covered medical procedures” not available to employees locally.

Bank of Montreal announced it will change its U.S. medical benefits to “help ensure equal access to abortion  services for plan participants and provide coverage for certain travel expenses to a location where medical care for these services is legally permissible.”

On Friday, Canada’s two largest insurers, Sun Life Financial Inc. and Manulife Financial Corp., were the first Canadian companies to say they would be extending health benefits for their U.S. employees.

Sun Life Financial, which has about 6,000 U.S. employees, will now offer all employees – and their dependants – who are enrolled in its group health plan a “medical travel and lodging reimbursement benefit” for any covered medical treatment or procedure that is not available within 100 miles of their home, the company said on Friday. The reimbursement will also include any travel costs for a companion.

Manulife will also cover travel, lodging and other costs for any employee, spouse or dependant to travel outside of their state, together with a companion, “to secure access to reproductive health care” if the services are not provided in their home state. The insurer has about 4,000 employees in the United States.

Ms. Reynolds, who was previously the head of Women in Capital Markets in Toronto, says she would be “shocked” if other Canadian companies did not offer similar health benefits to what U.S. companies are offering.

“It would be inconsistent with the health care that we provide in Canada,” she adds.

“In the U.S., the vast majority of people believe in abortion rights but there will be backlash. There’s no doubt about it. But companies have to think about where they stand on these issues, what their values are and hopefully act accordingly, regardless of the backlash that they might face. Companies have to realize that any position a company takes is never going to please 100 per cent of the employee base.”

Canada Life, Bombardier, Shopify, Magna, Telus International, Couche-Tard and Linamar all declined to comment or did not respond when contacted by The Globe on whether their health insurance plans for U.S. employees would be updated to include travel costs for those employees seeking a legal abortion.

A spokesperson for Royal Bank of Canada, which has 14,000 U.S. employees, said the bank is “assessing the impact of this decision on the health care options and benefits available to our U.S. colleagues, with the intention to help ensure our employees have access to the health care they need regardless of where they live.”

With a report from Jason Kirby

An earlier version of the story said Bank of Montreal declined to comment. An updated statement was provided to the Globe and Mail after the time of publication.

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