Over the years, citizens of Western democracies have gotten used to seeing courts expand their rights. And yet, if the U.S. Supreme Court follows through on its notorious leaked draft decision to overturn the landmark 1973 ruling, Roe v. Wade, the right to abortion will vanish in many states.
In an age of corporations taking stands on social issues, some companies reacted to the news with strong statements supporting a woman’s right to choose.
Before the draft decision leaked, a growing list of companies, including Apple, Salesforce, Citigroup and Yelp, had already spoken out against new state laws restricting abortions or announced they would change their benefits to help employees travel to ensure access.
On the same day of the leak in early May, Amazon announced that it would provide up to $4,000 to employees to travel for medical treatments they couldn’t get within 100 miles of their homes. Other companies, such as Microsoft and Starbucks, followed suit, saying they would also cover travel costs.
“It is a great thing that companies are willing to do this, and I think it really defines what social responsibility for companies looks like,” Christian Nunes, president of the National Organization for Women, recently told Fortune.
Though Amazon has said it will help employees in affected states access abortion services, Popular Information reports that the e-retail giant has donated almost US$1 million to anti-abortion political committees since 2016. Some of the other top contributors to anti-abortion committees include AT&T, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, CVS, Google, Walmart and Verizon.
It is a great thing that companies are willing to do this, and I think it really defines what social responsibility for companies looks like.
-Christian Nunes, president of the National Organization for Women
And many of the United States’ largest companies have stayed quiet on the issue. After the draft decision was leaked, Yahoo Finance reached out to the 72 largest corporations with women CEOs to see how they planned to respond to potential changes in abortion laws (and whether they planned to expand their benefits to employees in affected states). Only two responded: CVS and Citigroup.
Even though more than 61% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, many companies are reluctant to comment on the issue. Some analysts say corporations may be waiting to see the final decision before jumping in. But others believe that Disney’s treatment by Republicans in Florida after it (belatedly) voiced its opposition to the so-called Don’t Say Gay bill could be having a chilling effect. The Florida State government stripped Disney of a special operating status.
By no surprise (and likely fearing the same kind of backlash from the right), Disney has been silent on the draft decision on abortion.
Citigroup may be about to face a similar punitive action from state legislators in Texas for its policy covering travel expenses for employees seeking out-of-state abortions. Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain has said he will introduce a bill that bars Citigroup from underwriting municipal bonds in the state unless it backtracks on its policy.
While many companies may not want to wade into the latest hot-button topic in the United States’ culture wars, they may have little choice in the weeks and months ahead, as the midterms approach, and reproductive rights are sure to be a ballot box issue.
“Employers who profess to uphold abortion rights need to prepare a plan for supporting their employees as they carry the fight to the next stage this summer and into Election Day 2022,” writes Tina Casey on TriplePundit.
UPDATE, June 28, 2022:
Since the Supreme Court released its decision overturning Roe v. Wade, more companies have come forward saying they will cover travel expenses for any employee unable to access abortion services in their state. On Friday, Disney, Meta and others announced they would adopt such a policy, as trigger bans started to go into effect in a number of states. Patagonia went a step further, promising it would pay for the bail of any employee arrested while peacfully protesting the court's decision.