June 24, 2022
Communications Guidance on Roe v. Wade
Today, the United States Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.
The ruling is “one of the most consequential in modern memory.”
Across the country, healthcare providers are deeply involved in the private and very public conversations happening in light of the seismic decision.
The questions we’ve been asking since the leak have been answered. This is a moment of divisive and profound emotion. Celebration and relief on one side. Fear and anger on the other. Exhaustion by all as our country is further unsettled.
Hopefully, you’ve done the homework recommended several weeks ago. Either way, here’s immediate guidance.
Speak. To whom and how depends on your community, your culture and position. But the people important to you – your colleagues, nurses, allied physicians and, likely, your community – want to know how today’s decision affects them; how, as an organization, you’re thinking about it and acting on it; and what the longer-term consequences might be.
There are (too) many hot button cultural issues today, some of which healthcare leaders may have strong opinions on but little standing. Weighing in on the war in Ukraine is a local decision.
The redefining of women’s health services, however, is squarely in your lane. It is where your voice is uniquely trusted, needed, expected. Again, whether to have a message on this issue is not optional. Not addressing it – the choice of silence – is a powerful message, too. Choose words.
Here’s where to start:
- Align your team. This issue is divisive enough; your organization should speak now with one voice. Gather your leadership group as colleagues, listening to each other in a spirit of friendship, good faith and a shared commitment to the mission of care. Find that common message.
- Know your record on abortion services. You have an obligation to follow all laws and regulations. You also have a mission to care for those in need. How have you been operating and, now, how will you operate in the context of your state’s environment?
- Equip leaders. Send your managers into team huddles with the tools they need to listen effectively, guide conversations as appropriate, and allow people to express how the news is affecting them while keeping things civil and centered on the common mission.
- Check in with employees. Provide channels for team members at all levels to learn about the organization’s stance and how it affects operations, while leaving space to provide input.
- Support your clinicians. There’s deep concern about the legal risk faced by physicians who provide women’s health services in states with existing or soon-to-be-passed restrictive laws. Get your legal, clinical, financial and marcom teams together to discuss how you’re handling this and how quickly you can move. Then, meet with the clinicians who may be affected to discuss your plans and listen to their concerns.
- Check back with your GR team. Your state officials have been planning for this decision, and it’s a fair bet that your legislature’s and legislators’ plans have been all over the news. Even so, there may be nuance now that the decision is official. You’ll want to know.
- Anticipate “what now” questions. Be ready to speak directly to the questions that are asked, but don’t feel like you must have an answer to every question. This is new. Similarly, don’t get bogged down in discussion on scenarios that didn’t come to pass.
This is a hard moment. We know it demands the very best of each of us as we move through this fractious time, and as you take on this challenge for your organization. Mission, culture, zip code and politics all play a role in how you respond. Why so hard? Because it raises the questions, “Who are we as an organization?” and, “Who do we choose to be?”
We also know this is the latest in a relentless accumulation of hard moments. As you rise to the occasion – again – take care of yourself and your team. And know that we’re in it with you.