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Corporate America remains mum on abortion rights one week later

May 10, 2022, 1:17 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! This is Paige McGlauflin filling in for Emma. The Senate will vote on an abortion rights bill on Wednesday, transgender individuals in Germany are seeking compensation and an apology for the country’s former law forcing sterilization, and corporate silence on abortion remains deafening.

– Palpable silence. It’s officially been one week since Politico’s bombshell report revealing a draft majority opinion from the Supreme Court about Roe v. Wade, effectively killing half a century of federal protections to abortion access. Since then, corporate America has been oddly quiet—a stark difference from their vocal support of other social issues like the resurgence of Black Lives Matter in the summer of 2020 and their very outspoken responses to the spike in AAPI hate crimes early in the pandemic.

Admittedly, some companies have publicized their abortion benefits and taken a more hardline stance in recent days. On the same day as the leak, Amazon announced it would reimburse full-time employees up to $4,000 annually if forced to travel over 100 miles to receive an abortion. Last Wednesday, clothing retailer Levi Strauss reaffirmed its benefits policy reimbursing travel expenses for full and part-time employees who must travel out-of-state for healthcare services, including abortions. 

On Monday, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman penned an op-ed for Fast Company. Stoppelman argued that more business leaders need to use their platform to push back on abortion bans and policies, and support their employees’ health and safety needs by ensuring they have access to critical reproductive care. Yelp previously announced it would cover travel expenses for employees who must travel out-of-state for abortion services, following Texas’s law banning procedures after six weeks of pregnancy.  

But the number of companies that have spoken out remains few and far between. Newsletter-based media outlet Popular Information reported that Zeno, a global public relations company whose clientele includes Coca-Cola, Salesforce, Hershey’s, and Netflix, told clients not to speak up about the abortion ban. 

“This topic is a textbook ‘50/50’ issue. Subjects that divide the country can sometimes be no-win situations for companies because regardless of what they do they will alienate at least 15 to 30 percent of their stakeholders… Do not assume that all of your employees, customers or investors share your view,” Katie Cwayna, Zeno’s executive vice president for media strategy, wrote in an email to clients. Zeno later clarified that the email was intended to advise clients on responding within the first 24 hours of the news break.

As my colleague, Emma Hinchliffe, reported last week, the right to an abortion should be of concern to corporations. In the advent of Roe‘s reversal, between 23 and 26 states will outlaw abortion, 13 of which have “trigger laws” in place. Employees based in half of the country will have to take off work and travel to another state to access these services or be forced to leave the labor pool altogether. For workers in states like Arkansas, Mississippi, or Alabama, this would mean traveling across multiple state lines to access abortion care. Companies headquartered in coastal cities may be tempted to dismiss Roe v. Wade‘s fall as a “red state” problem. But as Stoppelman noted in his op-ed, the shift to an increasingly dispersed workforce means that more of their employees are in states where they’ll lose access to equitable care.

Denying abortion access also carries economic ramifications. A new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research journal found that women who were turned away from abortion services were more likely to receive government aid, have unpaid debts double in size, and experience higher eviction rates and bankruptcies. Worse still, women reported experiencing outsized financial hardships for up to four years. The study found that the No. 1 reason women sought an abortion was due to potential pecuniary duress, with 40% of women saying they weren’t financially prepared for parenthood.

As journalist and author Liz Plank wrote in an op-ed for Fortune yesterday: “American companies have been able to compete and thrive because of the right to abortion and the right to legal contraception… There isn’t a single CEO who hasn’t benefited from family planning and abortion rights—either personally by having the option to control when they have kids, or by virtue of their employees being able to make those decisions to maximize their happiness and productivity as workers.”

Paige McGlauflin
paige.mcglauflin@fortune.com
@paidion

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ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Senate vote. The Senate is expected to vote on the Women's Health Protection Act on Wednesday, which would offer federal protection to abortion access. There’s a caveat, though—the bill lacks support from all 50 senate Democrats and has received pushback from the self-proclaimed, pro-choice Republican senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The two introduced a separate bill codifying abortion rights last week, but Sen. Maj. Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants Wednesday's vote to showcase each senator’s view on the issue, before the Supreme Court’s final decision this summer and midterm elections in November. USA Today

- On trial. A woman testified on Monday that celebrity chef Mario Batali groped and forcibly kissed her in March 2017 while the two were taking a picture at one of his Boston restaurants. Batali sold all of his restaurant holdings in 2019 following an Eater report citing multiple sexual misconduct allegations against him. He’s currently on trial in Boston for indecent assault and battery. Boston Globe 

- Projected winner. Unofficial results of the Philippine’s presidential election project Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the country’s former dictator, to win by a sizable margin. The country's current vice president Leni Robredo was the only woman vying for the top role in its Monday election. Sara Duterte, daughter of outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte, is projected to win the vice presidential race. Reuters

- Bowing out. Queen Elizabeth will not attend Tuesday’s opening of Parliament due to mobility issues, according to a statement from Buckingham Palace. Instead, the constitutional responsibility, which includes the Queen’s speech, will be delegated to her son Charles and grandson William. The Queen recently revealed that her COVID diagnosis in February has left her “very tired and exhausted.” CNN

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Modern Health has hired Maureen Calabrese as chief people officer. Chief has tapped Coralie Witter as its new CFO.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Payback. More than 10,000 transgender individuals in Germany were forced to undergo sterilization in order to legally change their gender. (That law was struck down in 2011.) Now, a new government led by a coalition of Social Democrats, Greens, and liberals wants to compensate those individuals, following in the footsteps of countries like Sweden and the Netherlands. Lawmakers are also considering compensating couples who were forced to divorce and separate for one year before becoming eligible for a legal gender change. Openly

- Tony nominations. Nominations for theater's most prestigious award were announced on Monday. A Strange Loop, a Pulitzer-prize winning show about a Black and queer aspiring theater writer, led with 11 nominations. SIX: The Musical, a comedy about the wives of Henry VIII, earned eight nominations; Ntozake Shange’s play, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, earned seven nominations; and several actresses including Mary-Louise Parker, Uzo Aduba, Rachel Dratch, Ruth Negga, and Patti Lupone earned nods for their performances. New York Times

- Uncovered wrongdoings. Kristie Small, a former staffer of Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), filed a lawsuit against the congressman in 2019 alleging he denied her maternity leave and fired her in her third trimester, citing poor job performance. Records show Cueller only requested feedback from staffers about her job performance after Small's termination and lawsuit, and unsuccessfully sought to have the latter dismissed. Small settled with Cueller’s office later that year for an undisclosed sum. The anti-abortion incumbent now faces what will be a closely watched primary runoff against immigration attorney and progressive candidate Jessica Cisneros. Jezebel

- Trigger law misfires. An investigation into state and local law enforcement agencies in 13 states with trigger laws found that almost all have no plans to enforce such laws. The Texas Department of Health and Human Services is the only agency with written plans for enforcement, but officials said that certain milestones, such as updating medical licensing rules and provider guidance, currently lack deadlines. Business Insider

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PARTING WORDS

“We just want to see diversity on our stages. If you come to an opera and you only see white singers telling these stories, that’s not what our world looks like. If our stages don’t look like that, then we’re doing our world our disservice.”

-Opera singer Nina Yoshida on Asian artists being pigeonholed into only Asian roles.

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