Will the business community respond to the new Texas law that effectively bans abortion?
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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! There’s an uproar over treatment of women at Alibaba, after 16 years of Angela Merkel men still outnumber women in German politics, and we wonder how the business community will react to Texas’s near-total ban on abortion. Have a good Thursday.
– “Bad for business.” By now, you’ve surely heard about the Texas law that prohibits abortions after about six weeks, which went into effect yesterday after the Supreme Court chose not to accept a request to block it.
I urge you to read all the labyrinthine and frankly shocking details of this law, but for now, let’s focus on the takeaways: it is widely viewed as a de facto total ban on abortion in Texas and, as similar laws are expected to spread to other conservative-leaning states, the beginning of the end of Roe v. Wade.
There are many urgent questions to be asked about this law and its implications and I would not put business concerns anywhere near the top of the list. However, Fortune is a business publication, so one thing I am wondering about is how employers will react. So far, companies haven’t had much to say—at least publicly.
But if history is any guide, that may change in the coming days. As you may recall, almost 200 executives signed a full-page New York Times ad in 2019 calling for access to reproductive care—including abortion care—and declaring restrictive abortion laws “bad for business.” That ad was prompted by a spate of draconian anti-abortion laws passed in states including Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Louisiana. (The statement was organized by Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Reproductive Rights, and McPherson Strategies.)
The types of companies willing to speak out on the issue were notable—mostly small, and largely women-led or with a female customer base, plus a sprinkling of progressive tech startups. Not present: the giants of the Fortune 500.
It’s no secret why big companies want nothing to do with abortion rights. It’s a topic that’s still considered part of the “culture wars,” and one that some (very vocal) portions of their customer bases vehemently oppose.
But behind closed doors, there’s no doubt employers are thinking about the issue. Consider the argument of this Fortune op-ed by Business Forward president Jim Doyle, Institute for Women’s Policy Research CEO C. Nicole Mason, and Tara Health Foundation senior director of corporate strategy Jen Stark. They suggest that operating in states with restrictive abortion laws is a disadvantage for businesses looking to recruit the best talent, citing survey data that finds, among other things, “a majority of women (56%) say they would not even apply to a job in a state that has recently banned abortion.” They also dive into the host of HR/benefits problems created when employees are forced to travel long distances and cross state lines to get the care they need. It’s not pretty.
We’ll be watching to see if and how businesses react to the new law. And if you have something to report, send it our way: Broadsheet@fortune.com.
The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe.
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