Roe v. When Wade Is Overthrown, Companies Keep Silence on Abortion

The had more than a month to formulate a response to the termination of federal rights in the United States if they did not weigh in soon after a draft opinion was leaked in May.

But when the final decision comes Dobbs – Jackson Women’s Health Organization On Friday, relatively few had anything to say about the outcome.

Many have remained silent, including some companies that have been known to raise their voices on social issues like Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights. Some of the companies that have darkened their Instagram pages or used rainbow flags on their websites for Pride Month in 2020 have so far hesitated to comment. abortion.

“Managers are a little concerned about this,” said Dave Fleet, head of global digital crisis at Edelman, a consulting firm. “They worry about the backlash because they know there’s no way to please everyone.”

Most businesses that made a public statement on Friday chose to consider how the Supreme Court’s decision would affect their own businesses. workers’ access to health care. In some cases they avoided the word “abortion” altogether, perhaps aiming to provide a more palatable response.

“We have processes in place to ensure that an employee who is unable to access care in one place has appropriate coverage so that they can receive a similar level of care elsewhere,” Disney executives wrote in a note to staff, adding that this includes “family planning.” (including pregnancy-related decisions).”

Other companies featured on Friday that said they will cover travel expenses for abortion workers include Warner Bros., Condé Nast, BuzzFeed, Vox Media, Goldman Sachs, Snap, Macy’s, Intuit and Dick’s Sporting Goods. joined a group. Starbucks, tesla, BarkAirbnb, Netflix, Patagonia, DoorDash, JPMorgan Chase, Levi Strauss & Co., PayPal, OKCupid, Citigroup, Kroger, Google, Microsoft, Paramount, Nike, Chobani, Lyft, and Reddit have implemented similar policies before.

“The way many people access the healthcare system is through the employer,” Mr. Fleet added. “You see companies look inward first.”

Several companies accompanied these policy changes with explanations. Roger Lynch, president of Condé Nast, described the decision as “a crushing blow to reproductive rights”. Lyft said the decision would “harm millions of women”. Jonah Peretti, CEO of BuzzFeed, described the situation as “regressive and dire.” Bill Gates, co-founder and former president of Microsoft, called the decision an “unfair and unacceptable setback”, and Meta’s former chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote that he was “threatening”. undo the progress women have made in the workplace.”

However, after the Supreme Court’s ruling, many companies that have spoken out on social issues such as racism, including Target, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Delta, and Wendy’s, did not respond to requests for comment or refused to comment. Hobby Lobby that won in 2014 Successful case to the Supreme Court He declined to comment on Dobbs’ decision, which disputed whether employer-provided healthcare should include birth control.

In recent years, there has been a growing expectation that companies have focused on political and social issues. According to consumer research firm Forrester, the share of American adults online who believe companies have a responsibility to engage in discussions about current issues has increased last year. The expectation is even more pronounced among young social media users, according to the study. sprout social.

When George Floyd was killed by police in 2020, public companies and foundations committed over $49 billion to fight racial inequality. Last year, after Georgia’s Republican-led legislature restricted voter access, some top executives, including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, criticized the lawand 72 Black business leaders released a statement. letter it urges corporate leaders to “publicly oppose any discriminatory legislation”.

Public opinion on abortion is somewhat different: Forrester found that fewer respondents believed companies should take a stand on abortion. Polls have consistently revealed that the majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, but a new survey The Pew Research Center has found that people have broad views on morality in this regard. Companies fear the backlash from taking a stance on the issue.

“When it comes to the range of politicized issues within a brand’s sphere of influence, few are as divisive and deeply personal as abortion,” said Mike Proulx, Forrester’s vice president and director of research.

Political participation is rarely a simple choice for corporate leaders. the Disney, long avoided partisan politicsThis year he faced insider backlash for failing to take a strong stand against Florida’s so-called “Gay Speaking” law, but later Florida lawmakers revoke special tax benefits when did he It was quickly changed after John Gibson, CEO of gaming company Tripwire Interactive, spoke out in favor of Texas’ abortion ban after six weeks of pregnancy.

2020 study Of 149 firms published in the Journal of Marketing, he found that corporate activism has a negative impact on a company’s stock market performance, but a positive effect on sales if activism is consistent with the values ​​of the company’s consumers.

Deciding to both engage and disagree can come at a cost.

“You have to be careful not to learn the wrong lessons from some of those moments,” said Mr. Fleet of Edelman. “It would be easy to look at companies that made the wrong move and said, ‘Well, we shouldn’t say anything,’ but actually it would be a mistake for some customers to say nothing.”

Some companies warned employees on Friday to be mindful of how they discuss the decision at work. “There will be intense public debate over this decision,” Citigroup’s head of human resources told staff. “Please remember that we should always treat each other with respect, even if our opinions differ.”

Meta said Friday it will reimburse its employees for travel expenses to get abortions. But according to three employees, the company later told its employees not to openly discuss the court’s decision regarding wide-ranging communication channels within the company, referring to a policy that puts “strong barriers around social, political and sensitive conversations” in the workplace.

But there are other companies that do not shy away from broader disclosures about abortion, and are urging other businesses to comply with their tone and commitments.

OkCupid has sent a notice to app users in states with abortion restrictions urging them to contact their elected officials to support abortion. Global head of marketing Melissa Hobley works behind the scenes to persuade other female business leaders. make commitments to support abortion.

“We were supposed to say never mind the risk,” he said. “This is an economic issue, this is a marketing issue. If you are in highly visible and competitive sectors such as technology, law, finance, you are all chasing female talent.”

Yelp’s CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, said that while he knew there would be users who would oppose this decision, he thought it was important to talk about access to abortion, to see if there was a business justification for it.

“Of course not everyone will agree when you talk about these issues,” he said. “Looking at that, we felt pretty strongly that this was the right thing to do,” he adds, “it’s been 50 years of established law.”

Some business leaders have said they are concerned about how abortion restrictions will affect their ability to recruit workers, particularly those whose businesses are based. 13 states this would ban abortion immediately or very quickly with ’s overthrow. These states include: Texaswhere tech companies have flocked in recent years.

Research built by The Tara Health Foundation found that two-thirds of university-educated workers surveyed would forego a job in Texas because of the restrictive abortion law and would not apply for jobs in other states that passed similar laws.

“Employers like us can be the last line of defense,” said Sarah Jackel, operations manager at Civitech, a 55-person, Texas-based company that develops technology tools for political campaigns. The company has committed to reimbursing travel expenses for employees who need abortion soon after Texas ban SB 8 passes.

Ms Jackel said the policy had strong support from both employees and investors, but the company declined to share if anyone used it.

“This makes good commercial sense,” he added. “There is no reason why we should have to choose between staying at work or having an unwanted pregnancy.”

Emily Flitter, Lauren Hirsch, Mike Isaac, Kate Kelly, Ryan Mac, Benjamin Mullin and Katie Robertson contributing reporting.

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