A gender equity advocacy group within the Department of Justice has called for administrative time off for staff and their families to travel interstate to have abortions.
The DOJ Gender Equality Network (DOJ GEN) board of directors wrote to government officials on Wednesday (pdf), prompted by the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Citing concern about “restrictive state laws that are already, or may soon be, in effect” in certain states, they asked the DOJ administrators to “mitigate the harm” to federal workers by the possibility of not having abortions available in certain states.
“As an initial step, we ask that the Administration swiftly consider requiring federal agencies to grant administrative leave to cover the time it takes an employee, or an employee’s family member, to travel to another state to obtain reproductive healthcare services not available in their own state due to restrictive laws,” the letter’s authors wrote.
In calling for the benefit, the group cited similar leave granted for staff and their families when the administration mandated agencies to allow leave to get COVID-19 shots. For this reason they believe a similar allowance can be made for abortions.
“This is a critical matter of gender equity and equality for the [DOJ] and federal government,” the group’s board wrote.
They added that they were troubled by how lack of abortion access would impact “employees of color, those who work in remote locations, and those from other marginalized communities.”
The group noted the fragility of abortion protection in a number of states with elected officials who already oppose it.
The letter referenced Texas, which has a restriction on abortions when a heartbeat is detected. It also pointed to Tennessee, incorrectly claiming that there was “effectively no in-state abortion access.” However, abortion is legal Tennessee, and in all states, though certain states place limits on them.
With the DOJ being the country’s largest public employer, the group noted that hundreds of thousands of federal workers in certain states will “immediately lose in-state access to abortion” if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
DOJ GEN claimed the leave entitlement wouldn’t “run afoul of the Hyde Amendment,” which restricts federal funds from being used for abortions.
They also called for absolute confidentiality, including from supervisors and peers, should the measure be provided, when staff request abortion leave.
The Supreme Court’s draft opinion on overturning federal abortion laws is not yet final.