ratcheting down gas deliveries to several European countries.

Across the continent, countries are preparing blueprints for emergency rationing that involve caps on sales, reduced speed limits and lowered thermostats.

As is usually the case with crises, the poorest and most vulnerable will feel the harshest effects. The International Energy Agency warned last month that higher energy prices have meant an additional 90 million people in Asia and Africa do not have access to electricity.

Expensive energy radiates pain, contributing to high food prices, lowering standards of living and exposing millions to hunger. Steeper transportation costs increase the price of every item that is trucked, shipped or flown — whether it’s a shoe, cellphone, soccer ball or prescription drug.

“The simultaneous rise in energy and food prices is a double punch in the gut for the poor in practically every country,” said Eswar Prasad, an economist at Cornell University, “and could have devastating consequences in some corners of the world if it persists for an extended period.”

Group of 7 this past week discussed a price cap on exported Russian oil, a move that is intended to ease the burden of painful inflation on consumers and reduce the export revenue that President Vladimir V. Putin is using to wage war.

Price increases are everywhere. In Laos, gas is now more than $7 per gallon, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com; in New Zealand, it’s more than $8; in Denmark, it’s more than $9; and in Hong Kong, it’s more than $10 for every gallon.

Leaders of three French energy companies have called for an “immediate, collective and massive” effort to reduce the country’s energy consumption, saying that the combination of shortages and spiking prices could threaten “social cohesion” next winter.

increased coal production to avoid power outages during a blistering heat wave in the northern and central parts of the country and a subsequent rise in demand for air conditioning.

Germany, coal plants that were slated for retirement are being refired to divert gas into storage supplies for the winter.

There is little relief in sight. “We will still see high and volatile energy prices in the years to come,” said Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency.

At this point, the only scenario in which fuel prices go down, Mr. Birol said, is a worldwide recession.

Reporting was contributed by José María León Cabrera from Ecuador, Lynsey Chutel from South Africa, Ben Ezeamalu from Nigeria, Jason Gutierrez from the Philippines, Oscar Lopez from Mexico and Ruth Maclean from Senegal.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Payment Data Could Become Evidence of Abortion, Now Illegal in Some States

Digital payments are the default for millions of women of childbearing age. So what will their credit and debit card issuers and financial app providers do when prosecutors seek their transaction data during abortion investigations?

It’s a hypothetical question that’s almost certainly an inevitable one in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade last week. Now that abortion is illegal in several states, criminal investigators will soon begin their hunt for evidence to prosecute those they say violated the law.

Medical records are likely to be the most definitive proof of what now is a crime, but officials who cannot get those may look for evidence elsewhere. The payment trail is likely to be a high priority.

HIPAA — which governs the privacy of a patient’s health records — permits medical and billing records to be released in response to a warrant or subpoena.

“There is a very broad exception to the HIPAA protections for law enforcement,” said Marcy Wilder, a partner and co-head of the global privacy and cybersecurity practice at Hogan Lovells, a law firm. But Ms. Wilder added that the information shared with law enforcement officials could not be overly broad or unrelated to the request. “That is why it matters how companies and health plans are interpreting this.”

Card issuers and networks like Visa and Mastercard generally do not have itemized lists of everything that people pay for when they shop for prescription drugs or other medications online, or when they purchase services at health care providers. But evidence of patronage of, say, a pharmacy that sells only abortion pills could give someone away.

a new state law authorizes residents to file lawsuits against anyone who helped facilitate an abortion.

“With the ruling only coming down late last week, it’s premature to understand the full impact at the state level,” Brad Russell, a USAA spokesman, said via email. “However, USAA will always comply with all applicable laws.”

American Airlines Credit Union, Bank of America, Capital One, Discover, Goldman Sachs, Prosperity Bank USA, Navy Federal Credit Union, US Bank, University of Wisconsin Credit Union, Wells Fargo and Western Union did not return at least two messages seeking comment.

American Express, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo have all announced their intentions to reimburse employees for expenses if they travel to other states for abortions. So far, none have commented about how they would respond to a subpoena seeking the transaction records of the very employees who would be eligible for employer reimbursement.

Amie Stepanovich, vice president of U.S. policy at the Future of Privacy Forum, a nonprofit focused on data privacy and protection, said warrants and subpoenas can be accompanied by gag orders, which can prevent companies from even alerting their customers that they’re being investigated.

“They can choose to battle the use of gag orders in court,” she said. “Sometimes they win, sometimes they don’t.”

In other instances, prosecutors may not say exactly what they’re investigating when they ask for transaction records. In that case, it’s up to the financial institution to request more information or try to figure it out on its own.

Paying for abortion services with cash is one possible way to avoid detection, even if it isn’t possible for people ordering pills online. Many abortion funds pay on behalf of people who need financial help.

But cash and electronic transfers of money are not entirely foolproof.

“Even if you are paying with cash, the amount of residual information that can be used to reveal health status and pregnancy status is fairly significant,” said Ms. Stepanovich, referring to potential bread crumbs such as the use of a retailer’s loyalty program or location tracking on a mobile phone when making a cash purchase.

In some cases, users may inadvertently give up sensitive information themselves through apps that track and share their financial behavior.

“The purchase of a pregnancy test on an app where financial history is public is probably the biggest red flag,” Ms. Stepanovich said.

Other advocates mentioned the possibility of using prepaid cards in fixed amounts, like the kinds that people can buy off a rack in a drugstore. Cryptocurrency, they added, usually does leave enough of a trail that achieving anonymity is challenging.

One thing that every expert emphasized is the lack of certainty. But there is an emerging gut feeling that corporations will be in the spotlight at least as much as judges.

“Now, these payment companies are going to be front and center in the fight,” Ms. Caraballo said.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Companies Scramble to Work Out Policies Related to Employee Abortions

There is no clear blueprint for corporate engagement on abortion. After numerous companies came forward to announce that they would cover travel expenses for their employees to get abortions, executives have had to move swiftly to both sort out the mechanics of those policies and explain them to a work force concerned about confidentiality and safety.

Few companies have commented directly on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ended nearly 50 years of federal abortion rights. Far more have responded by expanding their health care policies to cover travel and other expenses for employees who can’t get abortions close to home, now that the procedure is banned in at least eight states with other bans set to soon take effect. About half the country gets its health care coverage from employers, and the wave of new employer commitments has raised concerns from some workers about privacy.

“It’s a doomsday scenario if individuals have to bring their health care choices to their employers,” said Dina Fierro, a global vice president at the cosmetics company Nars, echoing a concern that many workers have expressed on social media in recent days.

Popular Information. Match Group declined to comment.

tweet: “I believe CEOs have a responsibility to take care of their employees — no matter what.”

Lora Kelley contributed reporting.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

G7 aims to raise $600 bln to counter China’s Belt and Road

SCHLOSS ELMAU, Germany, June 26 (Reuters) – Group of Seven leaders pledged on Sunday to raise $600 billion in private and public funds over five years to finance needed infrastructure in developing countries and counter China’s older, multitrillion-dollar Belt and Road project.

U.S. President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders relaunched the newly renamed “Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment,” at their annual gathering being held this year at Schloss Elmau in southern Germany.

Biden said the United States would mobilize $200 billion in grants, federal funds and private investment over five years to support projects in low- and middle-income countries that help tackle climate change as well as improve global health, gender equity and digital infrastructure.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

“I want to be clear. This isn’t aid or charity. It’s an investment that will deliver returns for everyone,” Biden said, adding that it would allow countries to “see the concrete benefits of partnering with democracies.”

Biden said hundreds of billions of additional dollars could come from multilateral development banks, development finance institutions, sovereign wealth funds and others.

Europe will mobilize 300 billion euros ($317.28 billion) for the initiative over the same period to build up a sustainable alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative scheme, which Chinese President Xi Jinping launched in 2013, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the gathering.

The leaders of Italy, Canada and Japan also spoke about their plans, some of which have already been announced separately. French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson were not present, but their countries are also participating.

China’s investment scheme involves development and programs in over 100 countries aimed at creating a modern version of the ancient Silk Road trade route from Asia to Europe.

White House officials said the plan has provided little tangible benefit for many developing countries.

U.S. President Joe Biden attends a working lunch with other G7 leaders to discuss shaping the global economy at the Yoga Pavilion, Schloss Elmau in Kuren, Germany, June 26, 2022. Kenny Holston/Pool via REUTERS

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian defended the track record of BRI when asked for comment at a daily briefing in Beijing on Monday.

“China continues to welcome all initiatives to promote global infrastructure development,” Zhao said of the G7’s $600 billion plan.

“We believe that there is no question that various related initiatives will replace each other. We are opposed to pushing forward geopolitical calculations under the pretext of infrastructure construction or smearing the Belt and Road Initiative.”

Biden highlighted several flagship projects, including a $2 billion solar development project in Angola with support from the Commerce Department, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, U.S. firm AfricaGlobal Schaffer, and U.S. project developer Sun Africa.

Together with G7 members and the EU, Washington will also provide $3.3 million in technical assistance to Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal as it develops an industrial-scale flexible multi-vaccine manufacturing facility in that country that can eventually produce COVID-19 and other vaccines, a project that also involves the EU.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will also commit up to $50 million over five years to the World Bank’s global Childcare Incentive Fund.

Friederike Roder, vice president of the non-profit group Global Citizen, said the pledges of investment could be “a good start” toward greater engagement by G7 countries in developing nations and could underpin stronger global growth for all.

G7 countries on average provide only 0.32% of their gross national income, less than half of the 0.7% promised, in development assistance, she said.

“But without developing countries, there will be no sustainable recovery of the world economy,” she said.

($1 = 0.9455 euros)

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Additional reporting by Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing; Editing by Mark Porter, Lisa Shumaker and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

G7 to hike sanctions on Russia, nears oil price cap deal

  • G7 to announce new Russia sanctions on Tuesday – U.S. official
  • G7 to work with other countries, private sector on oil price cap
  • Japan tries to cut zero-emission vehicles goal from G7 statement

SCHLOSS ELMAU, Germany, June 27 (Reuters) – The Group of Seven rich democracies will commit on Tuesday to a new package of coordinated actions meant to raise pressure on Russia over its war in Ukraine, and will finalise plans for a price cap on Russian oil, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.

The announcement came as the White House said Russia had defaulted on its foreign sovereign bonds for the first time in decades – an assertion Moscow rejected – and as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke virtually with G7 leaders meeting at an alpine resort in southern Germany. read more

Zelenskiy asked leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrial democracies for a broad range of military, economic and diplomatic support, according to a European official.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

G7 nations, which generate nearly half the world’s economic output, want to crank up pressure on Russia without stoking already soaring inflation that is causing strains at home and savaging the global south.

The price cap could hit Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war chest while actually lowering energy prices.

“The dual objectives of G7 leaders have been to take direct aim at Putin’s revenues, particularly through energy, but also to minimize the spillovers and the impact on the G7 economies and the rest of the world,” the U.S. official said on the sidelines of the annual G7 summit.

G7 leaders would also make an “unprecedented, long-term security commitment to providing Ukraine with financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support as long as it takes”, including the timely provision of advanced weapons, the White House said in a fact sheet.

Western sanctions have hit Russia’s economy hard and the new measures are aimed at further depriving the Kremlin of oil revenues. G7 countries would work with others – including India – to limit the revenues that Putin can continue to generate, the U.S. official said.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is one of the five leaders of guest nations joining the G7 for talks on climate change, energy, health, food security and gender equality on the second day of the summit.

“Since it is a mechanism that could benefit third countries more than Europe,” one EU official said. “These countries are asking questions about the feasibility, but in principle to pay less for energy is a very popular theme.”

TARGETING RUSSIAN GOLD, DEFENCE SECTOR

A U.S. official said news that Russia defaulted on its foreign sovereign bonds for the first time since the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 showed how effective Western sanctions have been.

“This morning’s news around the finding of Russia’s default, for the first time in more than a century, situates just how strong the actions are that the U.S., along with allies and partners, have taken, as well as how dramatic the impact has been on Russia’s economy,” the official added.

The Kremlin, which has the funds to make payments thanks to rich energy revenues, swiftly rejected the U.S. statement, accusing the West of driving it into an artificial default. read more

New sanctions planned by the G7 countries will target Moscow’s military production, crack down on its gold imports and target Russian-installed officials in contested areas. read more

The G7 leaders would task their governments to work intensively on how to implement the Russian price cap, working with countries around the world and stakeholders including the private sector, the official said.

The United States said it would also implement sanctions on hundreds of individuals and entities adding to the more than 1,000 already sanctioned, target companies in several countries and impose tariffs on hundreds of Russia products. read more

The agencies involved would release details on Tuesday to minimize any flight risk, a second senior administration official said.

The Ukraine crisis has detracted attention from another crisis – that of climate change – originally set to dominate the summit. Activists fear Western nations are watering down their climate ambitions as they scramble to find alternatives to Russian gas imports and rely more heavily on coal, a dirtier fossil fuel, instead.

Japan is also pushing to remove a target for zero-emission vehicles from a G7 communique expected this week, according to a proposed draft seen by Reuters. read more

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Sarah Marsh, Additional Reporting by Angelo Amante, Phil Blenkinsop; Editing by Thomas Escritt, Mark Heinrich and Alex Richardson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Crisis-hit Sri Lanka shuts schools, urges work from home to save fuel

  • Fuel stocks set to run out in days without curbs
  • Supplies only to essentials from Tuesday untl July 10
  • Regulator hopes to keep power cuts at 3-4 hrs/daily for 2 months

COLOMBO, June 27 (Reuters) – Sri Lanka will shut schools and only allow fuel supplies to services deemed essential like health, trains and buses for two weeks starting Tuesday, a minister said, in a desperate attempt to deal with a severe shortage.

Sri Lanka is suffering its worst economic crisis, with foreign exchange reserves at a record low and the island of 22 million struggling to pay for essential imports of food, medicine and, most critically, fuel.

Industries like garments, a big dollar earner in the Indian Ocean nation, are left with fuel for only about a week to 10 days. Current stocks of the country will exhaust in just under a week based on regular demand, Reuters calculations show.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Sri Lanka will issue fuel only to trains and buses, medical services and vehicles that transport food starting Tuesday until July 10, Bandula Gunewardena, the spokesman for the government cabinet, told reporters.

Schools in urban areas will be shut and everyone is urged to work from home, he said. Inter-provincial bus service will be limited.

“Sri Lanka has never faced such a severe economic crisis in its history,” Gunewardena said.

Autorickshaw driver W.D. Shelton, 67, said he had waited in line for four days for fuel.

“I haven’t slept or eaten properly during this time,” he said. “We can’t earn, we can’t feed our families.”

PEOPLE TRY TO FLEE

The government is talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a possible bailout, but many people can’t wait that long and demand for passports has surged. read more

The navy in the early hours of Monday arrested 54 people off the eastern coast as they tried to leave by boat, a spokesman said, on top of 35 “boat people” held last week.

Embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s elder brother resigned as prime minister last month after clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters spiralled into countrywide violence that left nine dead and about 300 people injured.

An escalation of the fuel shortage could lead to a fresh wave of demonstrations.

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa called for the government to step down.

“The country has collapsed completely due to the fuel shortage,” he said in a video statement. “The government has lied to the people repeatedly and has no plan on how to move forward.”

POWER CUTS

The government fuel stockpile stands at about 9,000 tonnes of diesel and 6,000 tonnes of petrol, the power minister said on Sunday, but no fresh shipments are due.

Lanka IOC (LIOC.CM), the local unit of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC.NS), told Reuters it had 22,000 tonnes of diesel and 7,500 tonnes of petrol, and was expecting another 30,000 tonnes shipment of petrol and diesel combined around July 13.

Sri Lanka consumes about 5,000 tonnes of diesel and 3,000 tonnes of petrol a day just to meet its transport requirements, Lanka IOC chief Manoj Gupta told Reuters.

Other big consumers are industries like apparel and textiles companies, whose exports jumped 30% to $482.7 million in May, according to data released on Monday.

“We have enough fuel for the next seven to ten days, so we are managing,” said Yohan Lawrence, secretary general of the Sri Lanka Joint Apparel Associations Forum.

“We are watching and waiting to see if fresh fuel stocks arrive and what will happen in the coming days.”

Sri Lanka’s power regulator said the country was using its last stocks of furnace oil to run multiple thermal power plants and keep power cuts to a minimum. Scheduled power cuts will rise to three hours from Monday from two and a half hours earlier.

“We are hoping to keep power cuts at three to four hours for the next two months,” said Janaka Ratnayake, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka. “But given the situation of the country this could change.”

An IMF team is visiting Sri Lanka for talks on a $3 billion bailout package. The country is hoping to reach a staff-level agreement before the visit ends on Thursday, that is unlikely to unlock any immediate funds. read more

It has received about $4 billion in financial assistance from India and the Sri Lankan government said on Monday the United States had agreed to provide technical assistance for its fiscal management.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Uditha Jayasinghe; Additional reporting by Waruna Karunatilake; Writing by Uditha Jayasinghe and Krishna N. Das; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Nick Macfie and Deepa Babington

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Factbox: Companies offering abortion travel benefits to U.S. workers

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

June 29 (Reuters) – A growing number of companies, including JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) are updating or changing their health insurance policies to offer travel benefits to U.S. employees who may need to access out of state abortion services.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday took the dramatic step of overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognized a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and legalized it nationwide. read more

Below is a list of companies that have said they will cover or reimburse U.S. employees who need to travel to receive medical care, including abortion, if access where workers live is restricted.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Airbnb Inc (ABNB.O)

Alaska Air Group Inc (ALK.N) read more

Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O)

Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) read more

American Express Co (AXP.N)

Apollo Global Management Inc (APO.N) read more

Apple Inc (AAPL.O)

AT&T Inc (T.N)

Bank of America Corp (BAC.N)

Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO)

Blackstone Inc (BX.N) read more

Block Inc (SQ.N)

Bumble Inc (BMBL.O) read more

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO)

Carlyle Group Inc (CG.O) read more

Chobani

Citigroup Inc (C.N) read more

CVS Health Corp (CVS.N)

Deutsche Bank AG read more

Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS.N) read more

DoorDash Inc (DASH.N)

Equinox

Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) read more

Gucci (PRTP.PA)

H&M (HMb.ST)

HubSpot Inc

Intel Corp (INTC.O)

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) read more

JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) read more

Kroger Co (KR.N)

Levi Strauss & Co (LEVI.N) read more

L’Oreal (OREP.PA)

LVMH (LVMH.PA)

Lyft Inc (LYFT.O) read more

Macy’s Inc (M.N)

Mastercard Inc (MA.N) read more

Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) read more

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) read more

Morgan Stanley (MS.N) read more

Netflix Inc (NFLX.O)

Nordstrom Inc (JWN.N)

OKCupid (MTCH.O) read more

PayPal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O)

Pinterest Inc (PINS.N)

Proctor and Gamble Co(PG.N)

Ralph Lauren Corp (RL.N)

Rivian Automotive Inc(RIVN.O)

Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) read more

Target Corp (TGT.N)

Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) read more

TPG Inc (TPG.O) read more

Uber Technologies Inc (UBER.N)

Ulta Beauty Inc (ULTA.O)

Unilever PLC (ULVR.L)

United Talent Agency read more

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O)

Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) read more

Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) read more

Yahoo

Yelp Inc (YELP.N) read more

Zillow Group Inc (ZG.O)

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Doyinsola Oladipo and Akash Sriram; Additional reporting by Chavi Mehta, Manas Mishra and Nichola Saminather; Editing by Anna Driver, Rosalba O’Brien, Bill Berkrot, Daniel Wallis, William Maclean

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Legal clashes await U.S. companies covering workers’ abortion costs

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

June 27 (Reuters) – A growing number of large U.S. companies have said they will cover travel costs for employees who must leave their home states to get abortions, but these new policies could expose businesses to lawsuits and even potential criminal liability, legal experts said.

Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Lyft Inc (LYFT.O), Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) were among companies that announced plans to provide those benefits through their health insurance plans in anticipation of Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that had legalized abortion nationwide. read more

Within an hour of the decision being released, Conde Nast Chief Executive Roger Lynch sent a memo to staff announcing a travel reimbursement policy and calling the court’s ruling “a crushing blow to reproductive rights.” Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) unveiled a similar policy on Friday, telling employees that it recognizes the impact of the abortion ruling but remains committed to providing comprehensive access to quality healthcare, according to a spokesman. read more

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Health insurer Cigna Corp (CI.N), Paypal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O), Alaska Airlines Inc (DKS.N) also announced reimbursement policies on Friday.

Abortion restrictions that were already on the books in 13 states went into effect as a result of Friday’s ruling and at least a dozen other Republican-led states are expected to ban abortion.

The court’s decision, driven by its conservative majority, upheld a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. Meanwhile, some Democratic-led states are moving to bolster access to abortion.

Companies will have to navigate that patchwork of state laws and are likely to draw the ire of anti-abortion groups and Republican-led states if they adopt policies supportive of employees having abortions.

State lawmakers in Texas have already threatened Citigroup Inc (C.N) and Lyft, which had earlier announced travel reimbursement policies, with legal repercussions. A group of Republican lawmakers in a letter last month to Lyft Chief Executive Logan Green said Texas “will take swift and decisive action” if the ride-hailing company implements the policy.

The legislators also outlined a series of abortion-related proposals, including a bill that would bar companies from doing business in Texas if they pay for residents of the state to receive abortions elsewhere.

LAWSUITS LOOMING

It is likely only a matter of time before companies face lawsuits from states or anti-abortion campaigners claiming that abortion-related payments violate state bans on facilitating or aiding and abetting abortions, according to Robin Fretwell Wilson, a law professor at the University of Illinois and expert on healthcare law.

“If you can sue me as a person for carrying your daughter across state lines, you can sue Amazon for paying for it,” Wilson said.

Amazon, Citigroup and other companies that have announced reimbursement policies did not respond to requests for comment. A Lyft spokesperson said: “We believe access to healthcare is essential and transportation should never be a barrier to that access.”

For many large companies that fund their own health plans, the federal law regulating employee benefits will provide crucial cover in civil lawsuits over their reimbursement policies, several lawyers and other legal experts said.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) prohibits states from adopting requirements that “relate to” employer-sponsored health plans. Courts have for decades interpreted that language to bar state laws that dictate what health plans can and cannot cover.

ERISA regulates benefit plans that are funded directly by employers, known as self-insured plans. In 2021, 64% of U.S. workers with employer-sponsored health insurance were covered by self-insured plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Any company sued over an abortion travel reimbursement requirement will likely cite ERISA as a defense, according to Katy Johnson, senior counsel for health policy at the American Benefits Council trade group. And that will be a strong argument, she said, particularly for businesses with general reimbursement policies for necessary medical-related travel rather than those that single out abortion.

Johnson said reimbursements for other kinds of medical-related travel, such as visits to hospitals designated “centers of excellence,” are already common even though policies related to abortion are still relatively rare.

“While this may seem new, it’s not in the general sense and the law already tells us how to handle it,” Johnson said.

LIMITS

The argument has its limits. Fully-insured health plans, in which employers purchase coverage through a commercial insurer, cover about one-third of workers with insurance and are regulated by state law and not ERISA.

Most small and medium-sized U.S. businesses have fully-insured plans and could not argue that ERISA prevents states from limiting abortion coverage.

And, ERISA cannot prevent states from enforcing criminal laws, such as those in several states that make it a crime to aid and abet abortion. So employers who adopt reimbursement policies are vulnerable to criminal charges from state and local prosecutors.

But since most criminal abortion laws have not been enforced in decades, since Roe was decided, it is unclear whether officials would attempt to prosecute companies, according to Danita Merlau, a Chicago-based lawyer who advises companies on benefits issues.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Grant McCool and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Large U.S. law firms mostly quiet on abortion ruling, are ‘walking a tightrope’

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

June 26 (Reuters) – The largest U.S. law firms did not take a public stance following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade on Friday, diverging from the approach of some major companies that have made statements on the closely watched abortion case.

The high court’s 6-3 Dobbs decision upheld a Republican-backed Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Many states are expected to further restrict or ban abortions following the ruling.

Reuters on Friday asked more than 30 U.S. law firms, including the 20 largest by total number of lawyers, for comments on the Dobbs ruling and whether they would cover travel costs for employees seeking an abortion.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

The vast majority did not respond by Saturday afternoon, and only two, Ropes & Gray and Morrison & Foerster, said they would implement such a travel policy.

Morrison & Foerster, with nearly 1,000 attorneys, was the only large firm to issue a public statement by Saturday afternoon.

The firm’s chair, Larren Nashelsky, said Morrison & Foerster would “redouble our efforts to protect abortion and other reproductive rights.”

The Dobbs decision has been expected since a draft opinion was leaked in May.

Several major U.S. corporations, including The Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) and Meta Platforms (META.O) said on Friday they will cover travel costs for employees seeking abortions. read more

Industry experts say law firms could speak out on Dobbs in the future if employees and clients push them to take a public stance. For now, firm leaders appear to be carefully weighing the advantages and disadvantages of commenting, including the possibility of alienating clients, experts said.

“This is a tightrope to walk for firms,” said Kent Zimmermann, a law firm consultant with the Zeughauser Group. “They have a diversity of views among their talent and clients.”

Some firms have issued internal communications to employees about the decision. Ropes & Gray Chair Julie Jones said in an internal memo viewed by Reuters that the firm will hold several community gatherings to discuss the ruling and offer “comfort.”

“As a leader of Ropes & Gray, I am concerned about the effect of this decision on our community,” Jones wrote, while acknowledging that her memo may cause “offense to portions of our community.”

A Ropes & Gray spokesperson told Reuters Friday that employees enrolled in its medical plan are eligible for financial assistance to travel out of state for an abortion.

Another large U.S. law firm, Steptoe & Johnson, offered its U.S. workforce the day off on Friday, a spokesperson confirmed. The spokesperson did not immediately respond to further requests for comment.

Despite a dearth of public statements, a number of law firms publicly signaled ahead of the ruling that they planned to provide free legal support to women seeking abortions if Roe was overturned.

Both the New York Attorney General Leticia James and the San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu, with the Bar Association of San Francisco, have convened pro bono initiatives that rely on law firm volunteers. Paul Weiss, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and O’Melveny & Myers are among the participants.

Paul Weiss Chair Brad Karp called the Dobbs decision a “crushing loss” in an internal message to the firm on Friday provided to Reuters. Paul Weiss and O’Melveny, which both represented Jackson Women’s Health Organization, respondents in the Dobbs case, deferred comment on the ruling to their co-counsel, the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The center said in a statement that the court had “hit a new low by taking away – for the first time ever – a constitutionally guaranteed personal liberty.”

Gibson Dunn did not respond to request for comment.

Robert Kamins, a consultant with Vertex Advisors who works with law firms, said firms will be “very cautious” about taking early positions on the ruling.

“They have to make sure that they are being thoughtful about it,” he said. “What is the business impact? What is the client impact? What is the recruiting impact? There are lots of things to think about.”

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Karen Sloan in Sacramento, California, and Jacqueline Thomsen in Swampscott, Massachusetts; Additional reporting by Mike Scarcella in Silver Spring, Maryland; Editing by Rebekah Mintzer, Noeleen Walder and Leslie Adler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Abortion banned in multiple US states just hours after Roe v Wade overturned

Abortion was already illegal in multiple US states on Saturday, with bans introduced within hours of Roe v Wade being overturned, as cities erupted in protest at the landmark ruling.

It came after the US supreme court on Friday abolished the constitutional right to abortion, more than 50 years after it was established, leaving individual states to decide. It is ultimately expected to lead to abortion bans in about half of the states.

According to a website affiliated with Planned Parenthood, the US sexual healthcare organisation, it remains legal to travel out of state to get an abortion.

Protests break out outside US supreme court after ruling overturns abortion rights – video

Among the first states to outlaw almost all abortions was Utah where, after the ruling, its abortion ban had already come into effect on Friday night.

Utah’s Republican state senator, Daniel McCay, who sponsored the state’s “trigger law”, said it would be wrong for Utah women to seek abortions in neighbouring states but he had no immediate plans to stop them from doing so.

Ohio’s ban on most abortions at the first detectable foetal heartbeat – known as the “heartbeat bill” – also came into effect. The 2019 law has been on hold for nearly three years, but after the supreme court’s announcement on Friday, a federal judge agreed to remove a federal court injunction blocking it hours later.

Alabama quickly stopped abortions as its 2019 state abortion ban took effect – making it a crime to perform an abortion at any state of pregnancy, including for rape and incest victims. The only exception is for the sake of the mother’s health.

Soon after the announcement, Arkansas’s health department told the state’s two abortion providers that abortions were now banned under a law banning all abortions except to protect the mother’s life in a medical emergency.

What state laws could go into effect
What state laws could go into effect?

Facilities were advised that performing an abortion is now a violation of the law, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

West Virginia’s only abortion clinic stopped performing abortions on Friday. The state has a law that criminalises providing abortions, carrying a three to 10 year prison sentence, but it is unclear how it will proceed on enforcement after the supreme court ruling.

“Roe has never been enough, but in states like West Virginia, it was the only thing protecting abortion access,” said Katie Quinonez, the executive director of Women’s Health Centre of West Virginia.

Now, she said, people from the state seeking abortions would be forced to travel hundreds, or even thousands, of miles to do so and marginalised communities would be worst affected.

In Missouri, the attorney general, Eric Schmitt, said he was acting immediately to enforce a state law banning abortion except in “cases of medical emergency”. It follows a 2019 law that included a trigger provision bringing it into effect after Roe v Wade was overturned.

In some states, including Arizona and Texas, abortion clinics temporarily stopped providing abortions while they assessed the legality of continuing.

Mississippi abortion clinic escort expects ‘suffering and death’ after Roe v Wade overturned – video

Meanwhile, multiple states vowed to protect the right to abortion. In Washington DC, the mayor, Muriel Bowser, responded by declaring it “a pro-choice city”, but warned that as a district, not a state, it was now vulnerable because Congress had oversight of it.

The Democratic governors of California, Washington and Oregon have all vowed to protect abortion rights and help women who travel to the west coast from other states for abortions.

Anticipating an influx of people seeking abortions, they issued a “multi-state commitment” and said they would collaborate to defend patients and medical professionals providing abortions and pledged to “protect against judicial and local law enforcement cooperation with out-of-state investigations, inquiries, and arrests” into abortions in their states.

The Massachusetts Republican governor, Charlie Baker, signed an executive order to protect access to reproductive healthcare.

In North Carolina, its Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, also vowed to protect abortion rights, despite the legislature being controlled by Republicans. In response to the ruling, he put out a fundraising appeal on Friday for assistance in preventing Republicans from getting veto-proof majorities in the state in November.

In New Mexico, where abortion is readily available, the top public prosecutor and Democratic nominee for attorney general, Raúl Torrez, urged politicians to take more action to protect women’s access to abortions, including for those from other states.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<