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How Can Employers Protect Workers Who Seek Abortion Care?

As US states seek to reduce abortion access in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, how can employers protect workers who seek abortion care? In this Fortune article, McDermott’s David Gacioch, Sarah Raaii and Ellen Bronchetti offer insight into what the US Supreme Court’s decision means for employee healthcare data, employee benefits and Title VII.

“Any employer who doesn’t already have an assessment of what the end of Roe means for its operations and workforce…needs to get in front of this,” Gacioch said.

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Navigating Data Privacy Questions Post-Dobbs

The US Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has raised many questions about potential efforts by law enforcement agencies to obtain data from healthcare and other service providers to detect the performance of a possibly unlawful abortion. For example, data collected by period-tracking apps, patients’ self-reported symptoms, or diagnostic-testing results might be used to establish the timeframe in which an individual became pregnant, and then demonstrate that a pregnancy was terminated, as part of investigative or enforcement efforts against individuals or organizations allegedly involved in such termination.

On June 29, 2022, the office within the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that is responsible for enforcing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), issued guidance addressing how HIPAA limits disclosures by covered entities and business associates to law enforcement agencies in the absence of a court order or other legal mandate. The guidance provides helpful insight on how OCR may use HIPAA enforcement to discourage unauthorized disclosures of protected health information (PHI) to law enforcement officials in the wake of new state laws outlawing abortion. The guidance also implicitly confirms, however, that HIPAA does not provide a complete shield against law enforcement and litigation-driven requests for abortion-related information.

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Fired for Having an Abortion? Unlikely, but It’s Complicated

Could a worker be fired for having an abortion? According to this Insider article, workplace laws would likely protect pregnant people from discrimination. McDermott’s Sarah Raaii said employers should make sure abortion health plan coverage does not conflict with federal laws.

“Incorporating abortion benefits into an employer’s existing health plan might help mitigate worker privacy concerns,” Raaii said, “since health plans are subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).”

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Abortion Questions Swirl Over Health Lawyers in Post-Roe World

Following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, health lawyers have been busy making sense of the legal implications of the court’s landmark ruling. In this Law360 article, McDermott Partners Stacey Callaghan and David Gacioch offer insight into the myriad of questions they’ve received from hospitals, pharmacies, telemedicine platforms, investors and other players in the industry.

“The field against whom [abortion restrictions] can be enforced becomes so much broader,” Gacioch said. “It’s such a sea change.”

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Workers’ Abortion Privacy at Risk as Texas Targets Employer Aid

A group of conservative Texas lawmakers is warning employers of potential civil or criminal consequences if they offer out-of-state abortion access to their employees. In this Bloomberg Law article, McDermott Partner Scott Weinstein said many companies offering reproductive healthcare benefits are making sure such benefits aren’t tied to a particular procedure.

“The goal is not to know,” Weinstein said.

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Complex Patchwork of Laws Await Companies Offering Out-of-State Abortion Travel

Employers seeking to provide their employees with abortion services are facing a dizzying patchwork of laws that differ from state to state, according to this Corporate Counsel article. McDermott’s Sarah Raaii said companies with employees in multiple states “would really need to do a state-by-state analysis of what the abortion laws are, whether and under what circumstances abortion is legal in most states.”

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HHS Announces New Guidance on Reproductive Healthcare

On July 8, President Biden signed an executive order for abortion access. In this order, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) pledged to take steps to ensure that all patients have access to the full rights and protections for emergency medical care afforded under the law. Currently, medical providers and hospitals are required by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act to provide stabilizing treatment for patients with emergency medical conditions. On July 11, the Biden administration reiterated, through new guidance from HHS, that medical providers must offer abortion services if the life of a mother is at risk and that procedures conducted under such circumstances would be protected regardless of state law. The state of Texas has already filed a lawsuit challenging the Biden administration on this new guidance on the grounds that it violates the rights of physicians who oppose providing abortions and violates a state’s right to invoke its own policies.

Additionally, the Office of Civil Rights released guidance for retail pharmacies on access to reproductive healthcare services. The guidance, directed toward the nation’s 60,000 retail pharmacies, directed that pharmacists must provide medications related to reproductive healthcare as directed and prescribed by providers. This includes abortion pills, birth control and other reproductive care treatments. The agency cited reports outlining instances in which women were denied certain medications because the drugs may be linked to abortion or the drugs have ingredients like those used for medication abortion, for example Methotrexate, which is sometimes used to treat certain types of cancer, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis, but can also be used off-label to end ectopic pregnancies.

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State Abortion Bans Signal Chaos for Providers

The US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will generate a minefield of legal and criminal implications for healthcare providers, according to this Healthcare Dive article. McDermott Partners Stacey Callaghan and David Gacioch offer insight into what these restrictive state laws could mean for providers.

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US Supreme Court Ruling Complicates Abortion Insurance Coverage

The patchwork of US federal and state rules governing abortion insurance coverage will become more complicated following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. In this MarketWatch article, McDermott’s Sarah Raaii said the situation has employers on edge.

“We’ve had a huge influx of employers reaching out and asking, ‘What should I be doing? Are there risks?’” Raaii said.

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Conflicting State Laws and ‘Unpredictable’ Enforcement Await Providers in Post-Roe America

In the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, legal experts say health systems and providers must immediately review their operations and prepare for potential enforcement by state prosecutors. According to this article published in Fierce Healthcare, McDermott Partner Stacey Callaghan said organizations should consult with counsel “as soon as possible” to ensure they understand the new post-Roe landscape.

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