UAW Drops Demands for Automakers to Cover Employee’s Abortions

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 24, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

UAW Drops Demands for Automakers to Cover Employee’s Abortions

by Valerie Thompson Staff Writer
September 24, 2003

Detroit, MI ( — The big three automakers and two major auto parts manufacturers will not pay for elective abortions under new contracts set to be ratified by United Auto Workers members — and the state’s pro-life group says protests by union members may have made an impact.

Other factors came into play too, says Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing, including projected plant closings and job losses that one newspaper estimated would hit 50,000 over the next four years.

As previously reported by, the provision to cover abortions in employee’s health insurance plans would have been a new one in the contracts with General Motors Corp., Chrysler Group and Ford Motor Company.

It was dropped in the contract finalized between negotiators, according to a report Monday in The Detroit News. Contract agreement was also reached by UAW and suppliers Delphi Corp. and Visteon Corp., according to the union.

United Auto Workers Vice President Richard Shoemaker expressed satisfaction with the course of negotiations, saying: "These were difficult, complex sets of negotiations that were handled in probably the most professional manner that I have experienced."

Calls and petitions to both the automakers and the union — particularly by union members — may have contributed to the decision to drop the proposed addition to health coverage, Listing said. However, neither the union nor the automakers ever responded formally to the protests, she said: "We would like to take credit for it, but we don’t know if we can."

The generally defensive position the autoworkers’ union faces made it difficult to take a tough stance on a controversial new benefit, she said.

"Some of the union members were saying if the contract included abortion coverage, they were going to fight ratification," Listing said. "That’s the last thing you want, division within your union."

UAW will likely lose 50,000 jobs, mostly via attrition, at Detroit’s three automakers and two largest suppliers in the next four years. The companies also plan to close and sell or raze as many as 20 plants, although workers at those plants who do not retire will find work elsewhere in the companies.

According to those familiar with the negations, the abortions would have been covered in health plans for current workers and retirees. Abortions are now only covered in rare circumstances when "medically necessary."

Since insurance coverage extends to dependent children, teen-age girls would have been able to use the health plan to obtain abortions without parental involvement, Right to Life of Michigan said in a statement.

In the past, polls have shown that union members don’t want their funds used to pay for insurance coverage for abortions. In 1990, when abortion advocates were pressing the AFL-CIO to take a formal position on abortion, polls showed that 77 percent of union households believed the AFL-CIO should remain neutral.

Related web sites:
Right to Life of Michigan –