Several people have reached out to me over the past year and said that they want to talk about abortion at work.
Men and women. Really.
The first time it happened, I was speaking in North Carolina. I asked myself — who the hell wants to talk about abortion at work?
Then I remembered that I have had dozens of tricky conversations at work.
One out of three women in America has an abortion. Many women come to HR to talk about health care coverage and options if they decide to carry their pregnancy to term. They ask about short-term disability. Some express anxiety. A few fear career displacement and discrimination.
And many men have come into my office to talk about the financial and emotional pressures of having another baby, too.
Whenever I have one of these tricky conversations, I can’t help but think about my grandmother who wanted to be an accountant but got pregnant (and married) at a very young age. When my grandfather left her for a younger woman after 25 years of marriage, she was screwed. She went back to work as a waitress at a soda shop. Not that she would have made a different choice…
…but she always reminded me that I had a choice and the smart money was on college.
So what happens if someone appears in your office and wants to talk about abortion?
If you want to be a good HR professional, it is best to remain neutral. (I know. I know. Like that’s possible.) You can listen to your colleagues. You should treat the men and women of your workforce as decent human beings regardless of whatever choices they make on this subject. And you can work with your benefits broker to provide health insurance coverage that is affordable, fair and focuses on preventative care.
- Don’t view pregnancy and childbirth and an expensive corporate loss.
- Don’t view contraception — including the traditional pill, Nuva ring, IUD, or the morning after pill — as a moral issue.
I truly encourage you to stay out of the political waters on this one. As human resources professionals, you should follow the law, stop fighting the notion that pregnancy is your company’s business, and treat men and women with respect during a very difficult time.