With Rowe vs. Wade is ousted, companies remain silent on abortion

The companies have had more than a month to formulate a response to the repeal of federal abortion rights in the United States if they don’t intervene immediately after the draft ruling was leaked in May.

But when the final decision came Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Friday, relatively few people could say anything about the results.

Most have remained silent, including some companies that are known for speaking out on social issues such as Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights. Some corporations that shut down their Instagram pages in 2020 or placed rainbow flags on their websites during Pride Month still hesitated to comment. abortion.

“Executives are feeling some anxiety about this,” said Dave Fleet, head of the global digital crisis at consulting firm Edelman. “They’re worried about the backlash because they know it’s impossible to please everyone.”

Many of the companies that made public announcements on Friday decided to discuss how the Supreme Court decision will affect their operations. workers’ access to health care. In some cases, they avoided the word “abortion” altogether, perhaps in an effort to get a more pleasant response.

“We have processes in place to allow an employee who may not have access to care in one location to have affordable coverage to receive a similar level of care in another location,” Disney executives wrote in a memo to employees, adding that this includes “scheduling families”. (including decisions related to pregnancy).”

Other companies that said Friday they will cover employee travel expenses for abortions include Warner Bros., Condé Nast, BuzzFeed, Vox Media, Goldman Sachs, Snap, Macy’s, Intuit and Dick’s Sporting Goods. They joined a group including Starbucks, Tesla, SquealAirbnb, Netflix, Patagonia, DoorDash, JPMorgan Chase, Levi Strauss & Co., PayPal, OKCupid, Citigroup, Kroger, Google, Microsoft, Paramount, Nike, Chobani, Lyft, and Reddit, which have previously applied similar policies.

“The employer is the way that many people access the healthcare system,” he said. fleet added. “You see companies looking inward first.”

Several companies accompanied these policy changes with announcements. Roger Lynch, head of Condé Nast, called the decision “a devastating blow to reproductive rights.” Lyft said the decision would “harm millions of women.” BuzzFeed CEO John Peretti called it “regressive and terrifying”. Some business leaders have also spoken out, including Bill Gates, co-founder and former head of Microsoft, who called the decision “an unfair and unacceptable failure” and Sheryl Sandberg, Meta’s former COO, wrote that it “threatens to undo progress, achieved by women in the workplace”.

But many companies that have spoken out on social issues such as racism did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment after the Supreme Court ruling, including Target, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Delta and Wendy’s. Hobby Lobby, which in 2014 brought successful claim to the Supreme Court disputing whether employer-provided health care should include contraceptives, declined to comment on Dobbs’ decision.

In recent years, there has been a growing expectation that companies contribute to political and social issues. According to research firm Forrester, the proportion of American adults who believe that companies have a duty to participate in the debate on current issues has risen over the past year. Expectations are even more pronounced among younger social media users, according to research from Rostock Social.

When George Floyd was killed by police in 2020, public companies and their foundations committed more than $49 billion to fight racial inequality. Last year, after the Republican-led Georgia legislature restricted voter access, some executives, including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, criticized the lawand 72 black business leaders published letter urging corporate leaders to “speak publicly against any discriminatory legislation.”

On abortion, public opinion is slightly different: Forrester found that fewer respondents thought companies should take a stand on abortion. Polls consistently show that most Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, but Recent Poll The Pew Research Center found that people have a wide variety of views on morality on the subject. Companies are wary of the backlash that could result from a stance on this issue.

“When it comes to a range of politicized brand influence issues, few are as divisive and deeply personal as abortion,” said Mike Proulx, Vice President and Chief Research Officer, Forrester.

Political participation is rarely an easy choice for company leaders. Disney who had long avoided party politicsfaced domestic backlash this year when she didn’t take a strong stand on Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” But Then Florida lawmakers cancel special tax breaks when did it happen. John Gibson, chief executive of game company Tripwire Interactive, was quickly replaced after speaking out in favor of a Texas ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

A 2020 study of 149 firms published in the Journal of Marketing found that corporate activity had a negative effect on a company’s stock market performance, although it had a positive effect on sales if the activity was in line with the values ​​of the company’s consumers.

Both getting involved and choosing not to get involved can come at a price.

“You have to be careful not to learn the wrong lessons from some of these moments,” Mr. White said. Fleet, or Edelman. “It would be very easy to look at companies that have made mistakes and say, ‘Well, we shouldn’t say anything,’ when in fact some customers don’t say anything, that’s a mistake that was made.”

On Friday, some companies warned employees to be careful when discussing the ruling in the workplace. “This decision will be the subject of intense public debate,” Citigroup’s head of human resources wrote to staff. “Please remember that we must always treat each other with respect, even if our opinions differ.”

On Friday, Meta publicly said it would reimburse workers for abortion travel expenses. But the company then ordered its workers not to openly discuss the court’s ruling on wide-ranging communications within the company, three employees said, citing a policy that places “strict barriers to social, political and sensitive conversations” in the workplace.

But there are other companies that aren’t shying away from the louder abortion claims, and they’re calling on other businesses to match their tone and commitment.

OkCupid is sending a notification to app users in states with abortion restrictions, urging them to contact their elected officials in support of abortion. Melissa Hobley, Global Chief Marketing Officer, has been working behind the scenes to get other female business leaders commit to supporting abortion.

“We should have said what the hell is the risk,” she said. “It’s an economic problem, it’s a marketing problem. If you’re in highly visible, highly competitive industries like tech, law, finance, you’re all competing for female talent.”

Jeremy Stoppelman, chief executive of Yelp, said he felt it was important to talk about access to abortion whether or not there was a business case for it, although he knew there would be users who would oppose the decision.

“Of course, when you speak out on these issues, not everyone will agree,” he said. “When we looked at it, we felt very strongly that it was right,” he added, “it was 50 years of established law.”

Some business leaders have said they are concerned about how abortion restrictions will affect their ability to hire workers, especially those whose companies are based in 13 states which will ban abortion immediately or very quickly with the abolition of Row. These states include Texaswhere tech companies have flocked in recent years.

Research work by order The Tara Health Foundation found that two-thirds of college-educated workers surveyed would not be interested in hiring in Texas due to restrictive abortion law and would not apply for jobs in other states that have similar laws.

“Employers like us can be the last line of defense,” said Sarah Jaeckel, COO of Civitech, a 55-person Texas-based company that creates technology tools for political campaigns. The company made a commitment to cover the travel expenses of employees requiring abortions immediately after Texas’s SB 8 ban was passed.

RS. Jaeckel said the policy has received strong support from both employees and investors, though the company declined to say if anyone has used it.

“It makes business sense,” she added. “There is no reason why we should put our employees in the position of choosing between keeping their jobs or getting pregnant.”

Emily Flitter, Lauren Hirsh, Mike Isaac, Kate Kelly, Ryan Mack, Benjamin Mullin as well as Kathy Robertson made a report.