Some Art Institutions in the Red States Offer to Cover Travel Expenses for Employees Seeking Abortion. Most are not

By | July 13, 2022

In the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s fall in Roe v. Wade, a wave of companies located in states likely to pass new abortion restrictions has announced they will pay employees to travel state lines to receive medical care. The list, which includes major corporations such as Amazon, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs, quickly spread online. But it’s not clear if art employers will be next.

Artnet News reached out to 16 art institutions in states where abortion may be illegal or in danger of becoming illegal. Most institutions declined to comment or stated that they would abide by local laws.

One exception is Basel art, which runs one of its three flagship fairs in Florida. The fair promised to reimburse travel costs for employees in the United States seeking to access abortion care. (The status of abortion law in Florida currently remains uncertain; the state bans the procedure after 15 weeks, and anti-abortion advocates are pushing for additional restrictions.)

“Our company fully supports women’s basic human rights to medical care, personal dignity, and self -determination, regardless of the state in which they live,” Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s global director, wrote in the email. Florian Faber, CEO of Art Basel’s flagship company MCH Group, said in an internal memo: “We stand by our commitment to help our colleagues, respect their privacy, and support them in their personal choices. Taking care of your health.”

Museums, meanwhile, are less obvious. (It is noteworthy that while Art Basel is a private company, the tax-exempt status of museums makes it more vulnerable to intervention from attorney general and other government agencies.)

An employee of Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio — where abortions are currently banned after six weeks — said that as part of the Ohio State University system, it is subject to university rules, which has not yet commented on its plans. Behind the scenes, a source close to Wexner told Artnet News that several individual department heads informed employees that they would personally pay their travel expenses out of pocket if necessary.

An arts foundation in Texas has asked not to be identified because of the state’s Senate Bill 8, dubbed the “bounty hunter law,” which financially rewards citizens for providing individuals who help and support the acquisition of abortion. The foundation confirmed they were making an internal plan for employees, but declined to provide details.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, which banned abortion in all cases except medical emergencies, said it would not cover travel fees for employees because of the museum’s proximity to the Kansas state line. (Kansas allows abortion up to 22 weeks of pregnancy; the nearest Planned Parenthood is in Overland Park, Kansas, which is about a 20-minute drive from the museum.) “So, the answer to your question is no, not right now , ”A representative for Nelson-Atkins wrote in the email.

Utah Museum of Fine Arts nor will it reimburse employees. (A judge recently overturned a law that would introduce sweeping new abortion restrictions in Utah as a legal battle goes through the courts.) “Employees can request reimbursement for costs associated with travel incurred only when traveling on official business to the university, ”said a museum representative. The museum is part of the University of Utah, which is a public university, and thus funded by the state. “The employees [are given] a generous sick leave policy that can be used for medical services, ”the rep added.

Some employers — including Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas, the Museum of Fine Arts, HoustonThe Bass Museum in Florida, and the West Virginia University Museum of Art—Refused to comment or did not respond to our inquiry. Representatives for High Museum said in Georgia that because no new laws have been passed since the fall of Roe v. Wade, it didn’t change any of its rules.

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