Jun 24, 2022 - Economy

Businesses under pressure to speak out on abortion rights after Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

Illustration of an open briefcase with a spotlight on it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Supreme Court's official decision overturning Roe v. Wade has thrown businesses firmly into the spotlight.

The big picture: Since Texas enacted a law restricting abortions last September and the leaked court draft opinion early last month, companies have been forced to consider whether to speak out, bolster worker benefits or support organizations and politicians on either side of the issue.

Why it matters: Employees increasingly expect their employers to publicly embrace values that align with their own.

  • Six in 10 U.S. adults (61%) believe the practice should be legal in "all or most cases," according to a survey from the Pew Research Center.

Driving the news: A handful of business leaders quickly spoke out against the ruling on Friday, decrying it as abusive to women and pledging to aid workers who need help accessing abortion care.

What they're saying: Among those who spoke out Friday:

  • Outgoing Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said, "I cannot believe that I’m going to send my three daughters to college with fewer rights than I had," adding that the ruling "jeopardizes the health and the lives of millions of girls and women across the country."
  • Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said the ruling "threatens to dismantle the progress we’ve made toward gender equality in the workplace since Roe."
  • Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, said she's "angered and disgusted," calling the opinion "reckless" and saying it caters to "corporate interests while rolling back the rights of working people."
  • Levi Strauss said: "Protection of reproductive rights is a critical business issue impacting our workforce, our economy, and progress toward gender and racial equity. Given what is at stake, business leaders need to make their voices heard and act to protect the health and well-being of our employees."
  • Dating app OKCupid called on Instagram for people to "act now by calling your representatives and demanding freedom and choice. We have no choice but to fight!"

Worth noting: Major companies that will reportedly help workers get from states where abortion isn't legal to states where it is now include Amazon, Apple, Citigroup, Dick's Sporting Goods, Disney, JPMorgan, Levi Strauss, Lyft, Microsoft, Starbucks, Uber and Yelp.

Of note: Others companies have been notably silent, potentially fearing backlash from the 37% of Americans who believe the procedure should be illegal in most or all cases.

  • Reality check: Money talks too. Companies will also be scrutinized for their contributions to political organizations that have fought abortion rights, which could run counter their public statements.

What we're watching: Whether companies begin making decisions about where to locate their operations and where to spend money based on local abortion laws.

  • Half the respondents in a quarterly survey of the CNBC CFO Council said their location decisions would at least be partially impacted by a state's restrictions, while only 20% said it would not factor in.
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