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Starbucks will cover travel costs for employees seeking abortions, gender-affirming surgeries

The company issued a letter to its employees in the wake of a leak that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade.
/ Source: TODAY

Starbucks announced Monday it will pay the travel expenses for employees seeking to have an abortion or a gender-affirming procedures when those services are not available within 100 miles of an employee’s residence.

“Regardless of where you live or what you believe, partners enrolled in Starbucks healthcare will now be offered reimbursement for eligible travel expenses when accessing abortion or gender-affirming procedures when those services are not available within 100 miles of a partner’s home,” Sara Kelly, acting EVP, Partner Resources, wrote in a letter to the company's employees. “This benefit will also apply to dependents of partners enrolled in Starbucks healthcare.

“Whatever healthcare choice you believe is right for you and your family, you deserve access to those services and the benefits that Starbucks provides.”

The move comes on the heels of a leak earlier this month of a Supreme Court draft indicating Roe v. Wade would be overturned later this year.

The court’s draft also follows news last month that Starbucks was mulling over adding benefits to employees who do not unionize. CEO Howard Schultz told store owners he is looking over the company’s benefits, while adding that workers in company-owned stores that vote to unionize would not be eligible for the upgraded benefits.

A Starbucks spokesperson told TODAY Food that the company is still working out additional details, including when the benefit takes effect.

"For decades, Starbucks has given its partners a comprehensive program of healthcare benefits, which have included many across-the-board refinements, adjustments and modifications," said the company spokesperson. "Consistent with this longstanding practice, Starbucks will provide to all partners who participate in the company’s healthcare benefits plan the reimbursement of travel expenses, an expansion of its healthcare benefits, which include gender-affirming procedures and abortion services."

So, this benefit is considered an expansion of benefits, rather than a new benefit, and therefore applies to employees currently enrolled in Starbucks' healthcare plan — even if they're represented by Starbucks Workers United.

Starbucks, which has 240,000 U.S. employees, is known for vocalizing its advocacy of various social causes, including same-sex marriage and pledging to hire refugees.

The Supreme Court leak sent shockwaves throughout the nation, prompting a surge in online searches for vasectomies and spurring Justice Clarence Thomas to say the news has changed the court.