Employers, Take Note—Young Women Are Planning Their Lives Around State Abortion Laws

Abortion rights activists counterprotest at a monthly anti-abortion march from Old St. Patrick’s Church to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic on July 2, 2022, in New York City. (Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images)

They care about global warming, the state of the economy and the dissolution of U.S. democracy—but according to a recent survey, there is no issue more pressing for young women than how to live in a post-Roe v. Wade America.

Young women and some men are reassessing their priorities, moving across the country and sacrificing their career goals, all in the wake of the decision by five conservative Supreme Court justices to allow states to force women into childbirth. A recent survey commissioned by global nonprofit Catalyst, which works to accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion, reveals that among employees ages 18 to 34, 47 percent of women and 44 percent of men believe they won’t have the career they’d planned, hoped for and dreamed of because politicians are now in control of their personal reproductive decisions.

“We’re looking to future generations of business leaders and managers and employees and we have nearly half of them saying, ‘I don’t think I will have the career I planned because of the decision by the Supreme Court,’” said Heather Foust-Cummings, Catalyst’s senior vice president for research. “These women want the companies they work for to put in place healthcare plans that provide for abortion funding, travel to receive abortion care and time off to go to a state where such care might be provided.”

Restrictions on abortion access triggered by the fall of Roe are expected to cost $105 billion in state economic losses annually, according to a December report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research—a result of lost labor force participation and earnings, and increased turnover and time off from work among women under the age of 45.

The Catalyst survey found that nearly one in three women are considering leaving their employer if action on abortion is not taken. Further, 57 percent of women and 48 percent of men said their companies and leaders weren’t doing enough to ensure abortion access.

What are the potential dangers for companies that don’t start acting proactively on this issue? “The data show that those companies are putting themselves at risk in terms of attracting and retaining talent,” Foust-Cummings said. “I can’t emphasize enough that this is a time when we’re already in a labor shortage and a tremendous race for talent, and this adds a layer of complexity for employers. Business leaders need to take heed.”

These women want healthcare plans that provide for abortion funding, travel to receive abortion care and time off to go to a state where such care might be provided. … We’re already in a labor shortage and a tremendous race for talent. Business leaders need to take heed.

Heather Foust-Cummings

A poll conducted by Ms. and the Feminist Majority Foundation three months after the Dobbs decision in nine of the states where abortion is either banned or threatened puts an exclamation point on this fact. The poll found that more than half of young women are making plans about where they are willing to live and work based on whether abortion is protected or banned in those states. Some 53 percent say their lives have already been impacted because of abortion bans, 44 percent have either considered moving or are making plans to move to a state where abortion is protected, and 10 percent have already declined a job in a state where abortions are banned.

The Ms. poll also found that young women and people close to them are purchasing or obtaining long-acting birth control, the morning-after pill and abortion pills—stockpiling them to prepare for any eventuality. Ten percent say they or someone close to them has received sterilization services in response to the Supreme Court overturning Roe.

“Young women in anti-abortion states are deleting their period-tracker apps out of fear that someday this may be used against them,” Foust-Cummings said. “This is no longer a hypothetical exercise for them. This has become real life.”

This article originally appears in the Winter 2023 50th anniversary issue of MsBecome a member today to read more reporting like this in print and through our app.

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U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Linda Burstyn is a TV drama writer, a political journalist and a feminist activist.