The war for talent is now being fought on new battlefields, and abortion is one of them

May 3, 2022, 9:22 PM UTC

Last night, Politico published a leaked draft opinion allegedly circulated by the Supreme Court last February that would strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade guaranteed right to abortion. Today, the Supreme Court confirmed the document’s authenticity. The opinion was written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who called Roe v. Wade wrongly decided and contentious. “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” he writes. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

The opinion will further open to door for states to criminalize abortion care, a conservative promise kept.

Public outcry about the pending decision and unprecedented leak was immediate. “This is the equivalent of the Pentagon Papers leak, but at the Supreme Court,” tweeted attorney, former Solicitor General, and former Supreme Court clerk Neal Katyal, as part of an explanatory thread. “I’m pretty sure there has never ever been such a leak. And certainly not in the years I’ve been following the Supreme Court.”

It’s not the leak, but what the leak predicts that is the issue we now face. Forcing people to give birth is an extraordinarily dangerous action to codify into law and Americans overwhelmingly support meaningful access to abortion care—more than half support no restrictions at all. The tipping point is here.

My colleague Amiah Taylor has a breakdown:

In 2021, over 100 anti-abortion bills that restrict or ban abortions were passed in 19 states, a record since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights’ 2021 Legislative Wrap-up Report. Now in 2022, politicians have filed over 300 anti-abortion rights bills in 41 states as of Februrary. In March, at least three states passed anti-abortion laws, including Idaho where a six-week abortion ban will take effect on the 22nd of April despite most women not knowing they’re pregnant until weeks four through seven of pregnancy, and sometimes much later

This reduced access to abortion care has already restricted the health care options of pregnant people, particularly low-income, immigrant, women of color, and specifically Black women who are five times more likely to need abortion services—and less likely to have access to reproductive health care, affordable contraception, and good information. Going forward, experts are particularly worried that Black women—who already have poor access to reproductive health care and are significantly more likely to die during pregnancy, will be at outsized risk.

While this is clearly a critical employee issue, employers have been slow to respond to the attacks on abortion rights.

Yes, some companies have weighed in, as my colleague Emma Hinchliffe reports. Last fall some 50 companies weighed on the Texas abortion ban with an updated “Don’t Ban Equality” statement arguing that abortion restrictions are bad for business. (And the economy: In a study assessing labor force and earnings, the Institute for Women’s Policy says the Texas ban will result in economic losses of $14.5 billion a year.)

But when it comes to an array of human rights and civic issues, companies are increasingly finding themselves caught in a tough spot they should have seen coming.

My colleague Megan Leonhardt tackled the Texas version of this conundrum this last fall:

The abortion legislation is far from the only contentious new law passed in Texas recently. During the most recent legislative session alone, the state moved to restrict voting rights, allow residents to carry handguns in public without a license, ban homeless camps, and limit the teaching of critical race theory in schools. 

It’s all part of a growing partisan divide that is spilling over from the political realm and putting large corporations in a bind.

Consider this a test for newly minted stakeholder capitalists. How will your political activism, including strategic donations, reflect the needs of your employees?

The war for talent is now being fought on new battlefields, many of which include the health, safety, dignity, and emotional wellbeing of employees, their families, and their communities. While that may feel like brand-new territory for C-Suites, in fact, it’s long overdue.

This is leadership in the modern era. Your move, employers.

Ellen McGirt

This edition of raceAhead was edited by Wandy Felicita Ortiz.

On point

New Mexico plans to offer free childcare to residents  New Mexico is set to become the first state to offer free childcare for most residents through June next year. “It’s free, no more co-pays, no more waiting,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham told a crowd at a child care center in Albuquerque. “This is the road to a universal child-care system.” The program will welcome cash-strapped middle-income parents, too. Under the program, a family of four earning up to about $111,000 would be eligible for the benefit. The median household income in New Mexico is $51,243.
Washington Post

How China Towns are changing  NBC’s Al Roker has filmed a thoughtful segment on the vibrant history of China Town’s across the U.S., how they’ve been a bastion of safety for immigrant families, a haven for entrepreneurs, and one of the few places where white people could experience Chinese food, history, and culture. The oldest is in San Francisco, the largest is in New York City, and the oldest Chinese restaurant, still family-owned is in… Butte, Montana. Bigotry, the economy and now COVID are a part of the Chinese experience in the U.S., too.
Family Style with Al Roker

A white cis, hetero, etc, suburban mother and lawmaker takes on anti-LGBTQ rhetoric  Mallory McMorrow is a Michigan state lawmaker, busily doing the people’s business when she had finally had enough. After being called a pedophile by a Republican colleague because of her support for LGBTQ rights, her five-minute response on the Senate floor went viral. Her story, and her full set of remarks, are well worth your time.
19th News

Reminder: Filipino nurses are disproportionately likely to die from COVID This report from the National Nurses Union, the country’s largest, finds that Filipino American nurses make up just 4% of nurses in the US, but 31.5% of nurse deaths from COVID-19. The regional numbers are even more alarming—some 20% of registered nurses in California are Fil-Am. “And because they are most likely to work in acute care, medical/surgical, and ICU nursing, many “FilAms” are on the front lines of care for Covid-19 patients,” reports Stat News. Finally, Filipino Americans are the second-largest Asian American group in the nation and one-quarter of the Asian population in California, but at least 35% of the COVID-19 deaths in the broader AAPI cohort.
Los Angeles Times     

On Background

This docu-series focuses on the history of Asian Americans  People of AAPI descent have been living in the U.S. for some 150 years, yet have struggled to have their experiences and contributions documented. Asian Americans, a five-part series created by PBS and WETA, aims to remedy this. “I think Asian Americans have been seen as the outsiders, sort of tangential to American culture, to American history,” says Renee Tajima-Peña, a filmmaker, professor, and showrunner for the series. The series takes on broad events in chronological order—Chinese Exclusion Act, the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, the role of Filipinos in the farmworker movement—and individual stories of note, like that of Bhagat Singh Thind, an Indian Sikh man who fought for U.S. citizenship in a Supreme Court case.

Paging Dr. Stress  Dr. Bruce Rabin, the now-retired director of immunopathology from the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, has long been known as “Dr. Stress” for his lifelong dedication to using science to help people manage the damage stress can do to their health and wellbeing. The man is beloved. “For years he has spent his own time and dime helping city teachers, firefighters, students, doctors and journalists, among many others, to adopt certain mental and physical practices to keep predatory stress at bay, as a tamer does tigers,” writes David Templeton in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (Templeton also refers to Rabin as a “prophet of peacefulness.” Awww.) More on Dr. Rabin below, but I’ve got even better news: Eight of Dr. Rabin’s lectures—PowerPoint with audio—can be found for free here. The series helps illuminate the physical mechanisms of stress and offers ways to reduce stress-related discomfort, illness, and disease.
Pittsburgh Post- Gazette

What losing Len Bias really meant  The promising young athlete died of a cocaine overdose just two days after he was tapped by the Boston Celtics in 1986. It was a shocker at the time, and the grief among fans and friends was palpable. But, posits writer Chuck Modiano, his death also inspired the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which “helped usher in ‘The New Jim Crow’ of mass incarceration in America,” and disproportionately filled American prisons with Black people caught up in harsh mandatory minimum sentencing and an over-emphasis on crack versus powder cocaine. Modiano’s history of drug war efforts leaves no person or party unscathed.
New York Daily News

Parting Words

Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey,  have enflamed debate and deepened division.

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

This is the web version of raceAhead, Fortune’s daily newsletter on race, culture, and inclusive leadership. To get it delivered daily to your inbox, sign up here.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet