The recent decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade will have ripples across many sectors of society, including the workplace. Kristie Puckett Williams is the deputy director for engagement and mobilization for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.  WFDD's Paul Garber spoke with her about the decision's impact on the labor force.

Interview Highlights

Puckett Williams begins by explaining that abortion access was one factor in the growth of women in the workplace over the last 50 years.

The ability to manage the size of your family is crucial to how a family plans for their future if they work, if they don't work, daycare, all the things that go into raising a child. Having clarity around the ability to control that was very liberating for many women. They were no longer tied down to the house and were able to move about in community because they didn't have as many children as their generations before them.

On what could change in the workplace if the North Carolina General Assembly makes it illegal:

This decision limits women's ability to make personal and private medical decisions that impact their future, their standing in society, and their financial independence. So it makes it even more difficult for low-wage workers and women to obtain an abortion, which places more stress on those with the least social and economic supports. People seeking abortions are often already mothers. And a third of them cite that they want to be better able to care for their children as the reason for seeking their abortions. And so a part of a parent's ability to care for their child is going to be greatly impacted by the ability to have abortions or not. And that parent's ability to work will be impacted by child and childcare issues. And as a state that doesn't have universal childcare, doesn't have health care for all these things really do impact employment, because employment-based insurance is good, but it's not oftentimes affordable to those low-wage workers. And so the brunt of this will be felt by North Carolinians who do some of the work that keeps North Carolina going. But also, the work that is mostly undervalued through low wages.

On what it means if the ability to get an abortion becomes a corporate perk among companies who say they'll pay for women to travel for access:

We know if it's an employee perk, it will most likely go to those in the organizations who make the most, because even if your employer says "okay, we will pay for you to go. We will pay for your time off." And you know, all of the things, there are still financial impacts to low-wage workers that we're just not able to capture in any policy of an employer ... More women who are low-wage workers will resort to these unsafe, potentially harmful, or even deadly methods of abortion. And this is going to further deepen the already disparate health, social, and economic disparities that exist in this country. 

On what advice she would give women in the workplace given the uncertainties about the future of abortion rights:

I think that folks right now should prioritize learning about abortion laws here in North Carolina. It really does depend on how we show up in November, and who we vote for in November, and the values that those folks hold. And if folks believe that abortion is a right, then they have to choose candidates that reflect that and show up to those polls in November if they want to protect it. This is a personal and private medical decision, and people have a right to make private medical decisions about their lives, especially in the workplace setting and their decisions should not be encumbered by their working or by their employer.

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