NEW YORK (AP) — A leaked draft of a Supreme Court docket opinion that will abolish a nationwide proper to abortion has thrust main firms into what’s arguably probably the most divisive challenge in American politics.
However whereas some are signaling help for abortion rights, many wish to keep out of it — at the least for now.
Specialists say it’s robust to navigate these waters. Firms are dealing with rising strain from social media and their very own workers to talk out. And whereas a few of them have weighed in on points like LGBTQ rights, voting rights and gun control, the thorny challenge of abortion might show to be more difficult.
“This is the hottest of the hot potatoes,” mentioned Allen Adamson, co-founder of promoting consultancy Metaforce. “While lots of issues are polarizing, this is ground zero for polarization. People are fanatically passionate one way or another.”
Persons are additionally studying…
Regardless of the dangers, main firms have waded into the abortion challenge prior to now. In 2019, greater than 180 of them — together with H&M, Slack and Glossier — signed an open letter that mentioned restrictive abortion legal guidelines have been towards their values and “bad for business.”
A similar letter was signed by greater than 60 firms final yr in response to a Texas legislation banning abortions after roughly six weeks of being pregnant, forcing some ladies to journey out-of-state to entry the process. Amongst others, denims maker Levi Strauss & Co., the net critiques web site Yelp, banking large Citigroup and ride-hailing firm Lyft pledged to cowl journey prices for workers who should journey lengthy distances to entry an abortion.
When the report of the draft court docket opinion set off a political firestorm this week, a couple of firms issued statements supporting abortion rights however stopped in need of taking additional motion themselves.
“Overturning Roe v. Wade will jeopardize the human rights of millions of women who stand to lose the liberty to make decisions over their own bodies,” Yelp said in a statement. “Turning back the clock on the progress women have made over the past 50 years will have a seismic impact on our society and economy.”
Many others have remained quiet. They include Netflix, PayPal, Microsoft, Patagonia, Target, Walmart and Apple, which is reportedly covering travel costs for its Texas workers through its medical insurance. Microsoft and the Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation, said it had no comment; the rest did not respond to requests for comment. The Business Roundtable, which represents some of the country’s most powerful companies, said it “does not have a position on this issue.”
Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, also did not respond to an Associated Press request for comment, though its chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, posted on her personal social media accounts on Tuesday that the document represents a “scary day for women all across the country.”
Adamson believes that many companies have held off weighing in on the Supreme Court’s draft because they want to wait to see the court’s final ruling.
“This gives companies a chance to think this through,” he said, noting that companies need to make a decision based on what the majority of their employees want.
Over the past few years, companies have added their voices to the Black Lives Matter movement and issues like same-sex marriage. After the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, dozens pledged to halt donations to lawmakers who objected to Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s victory, promises that turned out to be largely empty.
But taking a stance on controversial issues is seemingly becoming more challenging, oftentimes pitting companies against Republican lawmakers who seem increasingly eager to push back.
Delta, which declined to comment on the abortion issue, was the subject of attacks by the Georgia GOP last year for its opposition to the state’s restrictive voting rights bill. In response, Georgia’s Republican-controlled House voted to revoke a jet fuel tax break that benefits the Atlanta-based company, an effort that ultimately fizzled.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill last month to dissolve the private government Walt Disney World controls on its property in the state as retribution for the company’s opposition to a new law critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a bill that would prohibit companies from claiming tax deductions for their employees’ abortion travel costs or “gender transition” expenses for employees’ children.
State lawmakers are similarly taking aim at companies that offer help to women seeking abortions in states with less restrictive laws around abortions. Should Roe v. Wade get overturned, roughly half of states are likely to quickly ban abortion.
In March, Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain, a Republican, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Citigroup, saying he would propose legislation barring local governments in the state from doing business with any company that provides travel benefits for employees seeking abortions. If enacted, Cain said the bill would prevent the New York-based bank from underwriting municipal bonds in Texas unless the bank rescinds its policy.
In South Dakota, GOP Rep. Scott Odenbach suggested lawmakers might look at legislation to discourage companies from covering the costs of South Dakotans who travel to another state for an abortion, noting that the state’s proximity to Minnesota, where abortion will remain legal even if Roe is undone, raises “cross-border issues.”
Businesses face tough choices if they continue to operate in states that legislatively ban abortion, said John E. Katsos, a research affiliate at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, who consults with multinational companies. Katsos predicted insurance companies would raise the premium rates of companies that operate in such states, because it costs more to insure a pregnant woman and children than to cover an abortion procedure.
Some corporations have long paid for their employees’ travel-related expenses for surgeries out of state under their medical benefits, noted Katy Johnson, senior counsel of health policy at The American Benefits Council, a lobbying group in Washington, D.C. She said she has fielded more interest from companies since the abortion ban in Texas to cover travel expenses for abortion procedures.
State abortion bans might make it harder for companies located in such states to recruit college-educated workers at a time of severe labor shortages, some experts said. That alienation might outweigh any special tax privileges that helped to entice companies to locate there.
“You would rather pay higher tax and have great people than struggle to recruit people to your headquarters in Texas,” said Maurice Schweitzer, a professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
“College graduates will have a lot of choices. And I think there’s going to be a stigma and an aversion to moving to states that have these draconian laws.”
Related Press writers Doug Glass in Minneapolis and Barbara Ortutay in San Francisco contributed to this report.
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