Major companies are silent on Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade abortion decision

Protesters raise placards during a protest before the US Supreme Court, after the leak of a majority opinion draft written by Judge Samuel Alito preparing the court majority to overturn the historic Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights later this year, in Washington, United States, May 3, 2022.

Elisabetta Franz | Reuters

As protesters rallied and politicians scurried to speak, the country’s largest corporations remained largely silent after a leaked draft Supreme Court decision indicated conservative judges are ready to overturn a historic ruling. which guarantees access to legal abortions.

Dozens of companies including Walmart, American Airlines Other Disney have yet to make statements or respond to CNBC requests for comment. The Business Roundtable, a business group made up of top CEOs, said in a statement that it “has no position on this issue.” Microsoft, JP Morgan and the United States Chamber of Commerce, another leading voice for business in America, all declined to comment.

Corporations and major commercial groups remained reluctant to intervene, albeit the Supreme Court on Tuesday confirmed the authenticity of a leaked draft of the majority opinion, which would eliminate Roe v. Wade and nearly 50 years of abortion protection if the judges hold their position when a decision becomes official. The preliminary grade was first reported Politico Monday nightwho received the draft opinion.

The report threw companies into an unexpected and urgent communication challenge. The leaked Supreme Court decision is a draft, not the final decision scheduled for the end of June.

The ruling would permanently change the health care decisions of thousands of employees and customers, but it is also a a question of division in US politics – and the leak exacerbated passions a few months before the mid-term congressional elections. Also, the hard backlash against Disney and other companies that have recently taken a stand on social issues could have a chilling effect.

“There’s no benefit to talking about this for yourself. That’s why they have to work together,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, professor and senior associate dean of the Yale School of Management. “Nobody wants 40% of the country to be angry with them.”

Sonnenfeld said commercial groups, historically the most powerful and safest way for companies to go out, have become “overly cautious” and “neutered” by professional staff who play ping-pong between lobbying jobs and don’t want to wave. .

“They’d rather write mealy, irrelevant and boring business papers that don’t lead to clear directions, so the more you read, the less you know,” he said.

A new era of uncertainty

Some companies have said they are taking a wait-and-see approach.

HomeDepotfor example, he declined to comment via a spokesperson, saying “since this is a draft, it would not be appropriate for us to speculate on the final court ruling.” CVS Healthwhich owns thousands of pharmacies and Aetna health insurance, said in a statement that it “is closely monitoring the situation and evaluating how we can best support the coverage needs of our colleagues, customers and consumers.”

By remaining silent, companies could receive a harsh response from customers and employees. About 58% of Americans said they did not want to see the Supreme Court overturn their Roe v. Wade decision, versus 32% who would, according to the most recent Gallup poll available, conducted in May 2021. An NBC News poll since September shows that 54% of Americans believe it should be legal to have an abortion in all or most cases.

Some companies, however, mainly in the technology sector, responded directly to the draft decision.

Crowdsourcing review site yelp he said in a statement Tuesday “overturning roe deer v. veal it will jeopardize the human rights of millions of women who risk losing the freedom to make decisions about their own bodies “.

“Going back in time on the progress made by women over the past 50 years will have a seismic impact on our society and economy,” the company said. “Congress must codify these rights into law. Meanwhile, more companies will need to step up to safeguard their employees and provide equal access to the health services they need, no matter where they live.”

OkCupid, a dating app owned by MatchGroup, he wrote on Twitter, “#RoeVWade being overturned is unacceptable. OkCupid has proudly supported reproductive rights for years and we’re not stopping now. Gender equality is at stake and more brands need to step up.”

The company asked followers to tag brands they wanted to see take action and sign a petition to “defend reproductive health care”. The match itself did not comment on the draft decision.

Facebook parent A half did not provide comment on the report, but company chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg released a statement about her personal Facebook page.

“This is a scary day for women across our country,” said Sandberg, who has been a longtime advocate for inequalities for women in the workplace. “If the leaked draft opinion becomes country law, one of our most fundamental rights will be taken away from us. Every woman, no matter where she lives, must be free to choose if and when to become a mother. Few things are more important to health. and women’s equality “.

A path forward?

Some companies declined to respond directly to the draft opinion and potential Supreme Court intervention, but reiterated previous commitments to help employees access abortion services.

Previous measurements from Amazon Other Apple, made in the wake of several Republican-backed state laws that have sought to restrict access to abortion, suggest how societies could respond to a broader crackdown on abortion rights. (Amazon’s policy applies only to U.S. employees enrolled in corporate health plans, a company spokesperson told Vice’s motherboard.)

Both companies have added travel reimbursement for employees who are forced to seek abortions or other medical care out of state, as more and more governments across the nation’s Sunbelt pass laws that close abortion clinics or restrict abortion. access in other ways.

Above Other lyft everyone said they would cover legal fees for drivers who are in the south under an early abortion law in Oklahoma and one recently passed in Texas that bans most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. Either way, helping people have an abortion, including those who transport them to clinics, can be fined up to $ 10,000.

CVS said Tuesday that it has “made out-of-state assistance accessible and affordable for employees in states that have instituted more restrictive laws,” but declined to elaborate. The company has approximately 300,000 employees.

Yale’s Sonnenfeld said the stakes are high for companies. Sonnenfeld is a leading advocate of corporate responsibility and in recent months compiled an extensive list of company shares in Russia around the war in Ukraine.

Corporate brands have maintained a high level of trust, he said, even as Americans’ confidence in other institutions has been eroded. Yet some companies have felt reluctant to tackle problems and become the target of governors, he noted, such as the governor of Florida. Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, both Republicans.

This risk recently took place in Florida between DeSantis and Disney, one of the state’s best-known corporate residents. DeSantis last month signed a bill that would do away with long-standing privileges which allowed the Walt Disney Co. to essentially self-govern in the area around its theme park.

Critics and Democratic members of the Florida legislature argued that the move, which has sweeping tax implications, was motivated by a back and forth with Disney over Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill limiting teachings. early education on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek He faced criticism from employees and creative leaders for initially keeping quiet about the bill, but then he apologized for not speaking earlier and said the company would suspend donations in Florida.

Although the bill eliminating Disney’s special district status passed about a month after the “Don’t Say Gay” controversy, Florida state representative Randy Fine, a Republican, told CNBC at the time. that it was not a retail move. However, he also said that “when Disney kicked the crawl space, we looked into special districts.”

DeSantis is widely considered to be a major contender for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2024. Disney did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday on the draft Supreme Court decision.

Sonnenfeld said business leaders have shown that their words and actions can make a difference, especially when they come together.

In 2017, CEO of major companies including AT&TAmerican Airlines e Texas Instruments spoke in a letter that opposed the so-called “bathroom bill” in Texas which allegedly banned transgender people from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

The bill eventually died in session, after the pushback of business executives and civil rights groups.

“There is a story where they made a difference,” he said. “These companies are not fringe and pioneering companies, but they speak to the heart of the nation.”

—Jessica Bursztynsky, Leslie Josephs, Hugh Son, Morgan Smith and Lauren Thomas of CNBC contributed to this story.