First Airline Makes A Statement After Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade

Airlines scrupulously avoided speaking out on abortion after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was leaked – despite taking positions on issues like voting reform, affirmative action, and gun control.

However now that the Court’s decision has been published, Alaska Airlines has become the first U.S. carrier to put out a statement. While a bit mealy mouthed, it highlights the airline’s willingness to cover travel costs to get an abortion.

[W]e will continue, just as we always have, to provide employees with extensive benefits to support your health and well-being, no matter where you live. This includes reimbursing travel for certain medical procedures and treatments if they are not available where you live.

It’s odd for the airline to put out this supposedly employee-focused communication in their public newsroom (so it’s meant for media consumption). And odd for the airline’s focus to be on their employees.

  • Abortion rights are not under threat in the states where Alaska Airlines operates hubs. Alaska’s constitution has been explicitly read to protect abortion, and it will remain legal in Washington State and California.

  • Airline employees can travel more easily than most if necessary.

By putting this out as a public statement they’re signaling publicly in response to the news. But they don’t actually take a clear position on the decision, because their customers as well as employees are divided on the issue.

Restrictions on abortion are complicated because the harder it becomes to obtain an abortion the more costly and time-consuming. A restriction at 15 weeks (at issue in Dobbs) will push some abortions out later, the opposite of what pro-choice advocates would want.

Personally I find abortion to be a difficult issue. Because of my own uncertainty I’m reluctant to codify one answer in law. Legally-speaking the opinion in Roe vs. Wade never seemed strong. Stronger, it seems, would be a robust 9th amendment jurisprudence (which only Justice Gorsuch seems remotely interested in).

Indeed, Justice Alito writes as justification for overturning Roe.

the Constitution makes no mention of abortion.

But the Constitution’s 9th amendment literally reads “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

While unsatisfying to activists, the formulation that seems to match where most people are remains ‘safe, legal and rare.’ Every company is different but given the passion on both sides, and that the passionate sides diverge from where most people are, this seems like an issue most companies will try their best to avoid (they have employees and customers on both sides and the country is generally divided, far from the extremes of activists on both sides) and will stumble on when forced to address.

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