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Corporate America has stayed largely silent on Roe v Wade, but Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg has spoken up

May 4, 2022, 3:55 PM UTC

Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg has warned that the overturning of Roe v Wade — the landmark ruling that granted women the constitutional right to have an abortion — would strip Americans of a fundamental right.

Citing a leaked document, Politico reported earlier this week that the Supreme Court had decided to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 1973 ruling that established the constitutional right to have an abortion in the United States.

Sandberg, the most prominent voice to speak out so far, said in a statement on Tuesday that the news marked “a scary day for women all across our country.”

“If the leaked draft opinion becomes the law of the land, one of our most fundamental rights will be taken away,” she said.

“Every woman, no matter where she lives, must be free to choose whether and when she becomes a mother. Few things are more important to women’s health and equality.”

Sandberg joins just a small handful of corporate leaders and companies who have spoken out against the decision, including Virgin founder Richard Branson.

Branson said in a statement on Tuesday that he was deeply concerned by the potential withdrawal of abortion rights, saying he believed it to be “a personal choice that no government should interfere with.”

“If so-called pro-life advocates are really concerned about abortions, there are far more effective way to keep numbers low: lift people out of poverty and improve their access to education and economic opportunity; inform young people about their reproductive rights and choices; make contraceptives widely available,” he added.

“Banning abortions is poor policy with fatal consequences.”

A spokesperson for Yelp told Fortune on Wednesday that overturning Roe v Wade would “jeopardize the human rights of millions of women who stand to lose the liberty to make decisions over their own bodies.”

“Turning back the clock on the progress women have made over the past 50 years will have a seismic impact on our society and economy,” they said.

“Congress must codify these rights into law. In the meantime, 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.”

Corporate silence

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

So far, much of corporate America has remained quiet on the leaked draft opinion.

Several companies, including Walmart, Amazon and Disney, have not publicly commented on the draft opinion, and did not respond to Fortune’s requests for comment on Wednesday.

Dozens of America’s biggest companies did not respond to Fortune’s requests for comment on the news earlier this week.

Companies ‘afraid to take a strong position’

Edward Moya, a senior market analyst at OANDA, told Fortune on Wednesday that corporate America is “afraid of taking a strong position” on the Roe v Wade debate as it “could easily anger or alienate a good amount of their customers and workers.”

“The country is divided on abortion rights, and companies do not want to risk taking a position that could clash with anyone’s religious beliefs,” he said.   

But companies could be taking a risk by staying quiet on what is widely perceived as an attack on women’s reproductive rights.

Half of U.S. voters do not believe Roe v Wade should be overturned, according to a poll conducted by Politico and Morning Consult, while just 28% believe the ruling should be overturned.

Disney landed in hot water in recent months over CEO Bob Chapek’s silence on Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” Bill.

Company employees who are members and allies of the LGBTQIA+ community staged a walkout in protest of the company’s lack of response to a law that would ban the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in the state’s elementary schools.  

Chapek later apologized for not taking a public stand against the bill, and the company vowed to take action to help repeal the law — a move that saw it come under fire from Florida lawmakers.  

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