Hiltzik: The faces of business change in the abortion landscape

last year, Corporate America has mostly remained silent while Texas has launched a ruthless attack on the right to abortion, a trend that quickly spread to other red states.

The leaked draft of a Supreme Court ruling shooting down Roe vs. Wade, who has protected the federal abortion right for nearly 50 years, will firmly put their silence on the wrong side of history. The court ruling is coming in a case involving an anti-abortion law in Mississippi, but shooting down Roe v Wade would presumably allow any state to limit or eliminate the right to abortion.

Few public policies have such a far-reaching effect on the health and well-being of the American workforce as access to health care. Women’s reproductive rights play an important role in this access.

[Elon Musk] he constantly tells me that he likes social politics in the state of Texas.

– Texas Governor Greg Abbott

With the court’s clear determination to significantly restrict these rights, silence will no longer work.

The question is, what will American multinationals do about it?

It took some time before the implications of the Texas law – which went into effect on September 1 after the Supreme Court refused to block it – were implemented. The law prohibited abortions after six weeks of gestation, well before many women knew I was pregnant

The law also established a rewards system allowing anyone, including outside Texas, to sue doctors, other health care workers, or anyone suspected of aiding an illegal abortion and to seek compensation of up to $ 10,000 per defendant. .

A handful of companies have responded to Texas law and other recent state abortion bans or restrictions by offering workers in those states assistance in accessing abortion services elsewhere.

Some have promised to cover travel expenses, including airfare and accommodation, for employees seeking abortions. According to a list compiled by Bloomberginclude Citigroup, led by CEO Jane Fraser, with 8,500 employees in Texas, as well as Levi Strauss & Co. and Apple.

Lyft and Uber have offered to pay for the Southern drivers’ legal fees based on rewards arrangements. Salesforce said it would help all Texas-based employees relocate to escape state law.

But there has been no concerted corporate expression of outrage at the rapid shrinking of women’s health rights across the country. It would not be surprising if companies had not kept their sense of social responsibility to words in recent years.

It has long been a routine for large companies to include pages that attest to their social responsibility on their websites, typically referencing charities and expressing devotion to principles such as diversity and nondiscrimination in anodyne prose.

In 2019, the Business Roundtable has published a manifesto pledging its membership of more than 200 large corporations to operate to the benefit not only of shareholders, but of employees, suppliers, customers and communities.

To some extent, the Round Table was trying to anticipate a parade led by major institutional investors, of which the battery major was Lawrence Fink, head of investment firm BlackRock.

“Stakeholders are pushing companies to address sensitive social and political issues, especially as they see governments failing to do it effectively,” Fink wrote that year in his annual letter to the CEOs of BlackRock’s portfolio companies. .

Business leaders pledged to resist attacks by the political right on voting rights, women’s reproductive health rights and democracy itself.

Major corporations said they would stop making election contributions to lawmakers who voted against certifying Joe Biden’s election or played a role in the January 6, 2021 uprising in Washington. Some have made similar promises about state laws restricting abortion or the right to vote, or have spoken out about reducing their activities in states that take such measures.

In the fullness of time, these pledges, promises and promises turned out to be nothing more than blasts of hot air.

Many companies that had pledged to end or at least revise their contributions to the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election soon regained their support.

Major Texas-based companies, such as AT&T, have proven to be major contributions to sponsors of the state’s horrific abortion law.

The Walt Disney Co., which had long proudly trumpeted its support for LGBTQ employees and customers, set a new standard for corporate cowardice by initially remaining publicly silent on the Florida bill that suppressed the teaching of gender issues in public schools. When the outrage of employees and others ultimately prompted the company to take a stand, only its overthrow made it a convenient target for the brutal Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis.

On the surface, this could point to the dangers to companies taking a stand on social issues, but it actually shows the need for corporate America to stand together in support of social equity and the implications for companies with a large workforce. in states with retrograde social policies.

The disclosure of a draft of what is evidently a majority opinion by Judge Samuel Alito overturning Roe vs. Wade could transform social issues from topics of lazy corporate PR talk to concrete issues of working conditions, employee recruitment, and state regulation.

It is likely that the end of Roe vs. Wade leads more states to enact more and more draconian abortion bans. According to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion legislation, 58% of women aged 13 to 44 live in a state that the institution judges to be hostile or extremely hostile to the right to abortion. Only 38% live in a state that supports the right to abortion.

Yet opinion polls consistently show that the vast majority of American voters think abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances. Only 20% think it should be completely banned.

Those figures have barely been budgeted since Roe vs. Wade was passed down in 1973, much for the affirmation in the alleged Alito decision that Roe v. Wade and a subsequent 1992 ruling known as Casey had “deepened the divide” in the country.

It is unclear whether anti-abortion laws already enacted in some states have affected the recruitment of workers, especially among women of childbearing age or among family members hoping to maintain some control over their family planning.

Perhaps the effect was mitigated while the court’s decision on abortion rights was secret, as its decisions were customarily prior to their official publication; It is not even known how close Alito’s draft will be to the final decision.

Abortion regulations tend to track broader health and social policies in most states; Those who enacted the tougher restrictions on abortion also tend to have less accommodating public health policies, such as less generous Medicaid programs and fewer mandates for commercial health plans and less accommodating anti-discrimination policies.

It is reasonable to speculate that state health policies, particularly those affecting women, will play into the decisions of potential employees, including well-educated women and members of the LGBTQ community, about where to accept jobs. So far it is impossible to say whether this will prompt companies to take the legal environment into account in their position or transfer decisions.

If neighboring states enact bans on complete abortion

If neighboring states enact complete abortion bans, the number of women needing to drive to California for abortion services could increase to 1.4 million from 46,000.

(California Future of Abortion Council)

None of the major companies most often cited for moving to Texas from California – Oracle, Tesla, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise – have expressed doubts about his move. Elon Musk, who moved the headquarters of his Tesla electric vehicle company to Austin from Silicon Valley, didn’t even tweet about the latest abortion news.

The day after the abortion ban went into effect in Texas, the governor of Texas. Greg Abbott said Musk told him that he “had to leave California due, in part, to the social policies” in that state and that Musk “constantly tells me that he likes social policies in the state of Texas.”

What is clear is that states that already promote the right to abortion will strive to strengthen it. This is the case of California, which is already classified by the Guttmacher Institute the most supportive in the country.

California is one of six states that require health insurance plans to cover abortion and one of four that has outlawed co-payments or deductibles for that service.

The right to abortion has been enshrined in the State Constitution through a provision on the right to privacy that the state Supreme Court has interpreted as a guarantee of the right to abortion. In recognition of the US Supreme Court’s conservative majority threat to abortion, a move is a step in Sacramento to place an explicit right to abortion in the State Constitution.

A The Future of Abortion Council Established last year by the legislator, it recommended increasing funding for abortion and improving infrastructure to support abortion services, as well as strengthening legal safeguards for abortion patients and providers.

gov. Gavin Newsom talked about making California a “sanctuary” state for the right to abortion. Yep, Planned Parenthood of California claims it was treat more than 80 out-of-state patients per month since the entry into force of the law of Texas.

In the case of a total ban in neighboring states already hostile to abortion, such as Utah and Arizona, the number of women aged 15-49 who could drive to California for abortion services increase to 1.4 million from 46,000estimates the Guttmacher Institute.

Initiatives such as those in California will widen the gap in social policy between the red and blue states.

For corporate executives, it may take more than the reduction of abortion rights and the exaltation of anti-LGBTQ discrimination to overcome the lure of low taxes and less regulation, but if esteemed workers start voting with their feet, surrender. of accounts could be inevitable.