Citigroup to cover travel expenses for abortions as U.S. states curb access

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March 16 (Reuters) - Citigroup Inc (C.N) has started covering travel expenses for employees who go out of state for abortions because of newly enacted restrictions in Texas and other places, becoming the first major U.S. bank to make that commitment.

The new policy is "in response to changes in reproductive healthcare laws in certain states in the U.S.," the bank said late on Tuesday in a public filing ahead of its annual shareholders meeting in April.

The filing said the travel benefits are "to facilitate access to adequate resources" and did not specifically mention abortion. Citi will cover transportation and lodging for employees who need to leave states such as Texas for abortions, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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Citi has taken stances on controversial issues before, including in 2018 when it enacted restrictions on its clients who sell firearms following several U.S. mass shootings.

"More and more companies are being forced to take stands on issues because of the demands of some stakeholders that antagonize other stakeholders," Witold Henisz, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business and director of its Political Risk Lab.

"Millennial workers and consumers demand that companies take stands and look to (their) CEOs especially where the government has failed to act or taken a stand of which they disapprove. This will continue to grow as a strategic challenge for companies," Henisz said.

Several states with Republican-led legislatures are passing new abortion limits in anticipation that the U.S. Supreme Court will likely undercut constitutional abortion protections this year. read more

In Texas, the public can sue anyone who helps women get abortions after six weeks. The number of abortions in Texas dropped by some 60% within the first month after the law took effect on Sept. 1, according to state health department data. read more

Idaho's senate has passed a bill banning abortion after six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.

The new Citigroup policy was reported earlier by Bloomberg News.

The filing describes employee pay and benefits, as well as environmental, social and governance policies.

While Citigroup does not have consumer bank branches in Texas, it has institutional businesses there and has long employed thousands of Texans in large offices handling data.

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Reporting by David Henry in New York; Editing by Matt Scuffham and Lisa Shumaker

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