With the US seemingly poised to reduce abortion access, companies are stepping forward
What’s happening? A draft of a US Supreme Court decision overturning the constitutional protection of abortion rights, as established by the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973, was leaked. In response, many politicians, advocates and organisations are building strategies to keep services available and provide as much care as possible to people who need it. On 12 May, a legislative attempt to codify abortion rights into federal law was blocked by the Senate.
Major companies and brands had already been announcing their own strategies to prepare for, and protect against, the impact of Roe vs. Wade being overturned.
In the last nine months (just to name a few):
- Amazon, Tesla, Apple, Yelp and Citi pledged to pay travel costs for employees seeking abortions out-of-state;
- Uber and Lyft said they will continue to transport people seeking abortions, and defend their drivers against abortion-related lawsuits;
- Salesforce will honour requests to relocate employees and their families to states with access to reproductive health care; and
- Lush is looking to expand its health care coverage to include reproductive health.
Why does this matter? An attack on abortion rights is an attack on women and their ability to control their own bodies. Without access to abortions women risk dying from having to carry on with unviable pregnancies and face pressure to leave work or education. There will also be a huge rise in the number of children born into unstable environments. All of this will also disproportionately affect minority demographics for the worse.
It’s becoming an imperative for companies to have a say on these kinds of issues following pressure from consumers, employees and their own sense of equality.
A number of corporations have released statements reflecting this, and described, in particular, the effect it would have on the business world.
From a purely strategic perspective, abortion bans would pose huge disruption to business’ workforces, as roughly half of employees could, at any point, have to abandon their career development. The OECD estimates that the world loses $12tn from gender-based discrimination. The dragging back of women’s rights would undoubtedly drive that figure up.
Pro-choice business – where have I heard that before? Attacks on abortion rights aren’t new. Many individual US states and politicians have been working to criminalise and peel back abortion services within their jurisdictions for years.
So far, many states have implemented bans on abortions at increasingly early stages of pregnancy, and 26 states look poised to implement full bans if Roe vs. Wade is overturned. In November 2021, for example, Texas passed a law effectively criminalising abortion after six weeks, meaning anyone seeking or “aiding and abetting” an abortion could be sued. We highlighted the efforts of GoDaddy, Bumble, Match Group, Uber and Lyft, alongside a number of particularly innovative efforts by individuals, to disrupt the law and provide support for anyone made vulnerable by it.
No free passes – While it’s right companies step up to support women, we should acknowledge that it doesn’t absolve them of where they’ve fallen flat on other social issues.
A quick reminder that gig-economy firms like Uber are failing to protect their workers from dangers they face on the job, Amazon has fired staff campaigning for better working rights, and that despite some action on this issue, most companies have stayed silent.
Not the end of the story – A number of states looking to stamp out abortion are also launching other legislative attacks on minority demographics. Over 1,500 new book bans have been implemented in US states over the last nine months, in a bid to remove content about LGBTQ+ people, diversity and racial history.
Alarmingly, it’s not just novels and history books being targeted – it’s maths textbooks as well. The knock-on effects this could have on younger generations are sobering.