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Gloria Steinem: Businesses will only take action on abortion rights if we make them

June 24, 2022, 1:20 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The Biden administration has a plan to overhaul Title IX, Abigail Disney challenges CEO pay at the entertainment conglomerate, and Gloria Steinem has some words of wisdom ahead of the SCOTUS decision on Roe.

– Repeat history. As we await a Supreme Court decision on the future of Roe v. Wade—today could very well be the day, as the court has not scheduled any additional decision days this term—there are a few people it can be grounding to hear from. One of them is Gloria Steinem.

This week, the feminist organizer and writer sat down with political strategist Huma Abedin at a three-day event hosted by the VC firm Female Founders Fund, where she reflected on what’s new about this perilous moment for women, and what’s familiar.

“Everything old is new again,” Steinem told a room full of women startup founders, referring not just to the likely end of Roe v. Wade but the current U.S. political climate and feminist movement. “We can learn from the past—and we must learn from the past. But that should not necessarily guide us. If the past had to guide us, there wouldn’t be female founders. Most of you wouldn’t be here.”

Gloria Steinem, in conversation with Huma Abedin at Camp Female Founders Fund in Water Mill, N.Y.
Adam Yates for Female Founders Fund

Steinem founded Ms. Magazine in 1971, nearly two years before the Supreme Court issued its decision on Roe. (To the founders and investors in the room, Steinem joked, “Where were you when we started Ms. Magazine? We needed money!”) In 1972, the magazine published the feature “We Have Had Abortions,” in which 53 women including Steinem, Billie Jean King, and Nora Ephron signed a letter acknowledging that they had terminated pregnancies.

The piece was groundbreaking—and still is. It made public a conversation that had long been private, forcing people who opposed abortion rights, lawmakers, advertisers, and business leaders to acknowledge the fact that abortions weren’t a rare occurrence. Moreover, women they knew and respected had undergone the procedure.

Steinem is now 88; over her lifetime, abortion has gone from a religious issue to a political one, and from a topic rarely discussed in corporate America to an issue employers must now reckon with. Businesses, however, are still unlikely to take action without external and internal pressure. “I expect to see them do what we make them do,” Steinem said.

Roe’s reversal endangers pregnant people, but doesn’t eliminate abortion, Steinem argued. “We’ve always had wombs. And if we cannot control our own bodies, there is no democracy, no self-determination, no equality, no anything.”

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

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ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Post-Roe planning. Employers should prepare for the complications Roe's reversal could bring to the workforce. An approaching patchwork of state-by-state legislation on abortion means leaders will have to immediately clarify concerns employees may have, like how the ruling will affect benefits coverage for those who live in states with trigger laws, Fortune's Phil Wahba writes. Employers who do plan to offer abortion access to employees in restrictive states may face legal risks. In March, for instance, a Texas state representative threatened to bar Citigroup from underwriting municipal bonds unless it reversed its travel coverage policy for employees seeking out-of-state abortions.

- Redefining Title IX. The Department of Education unveiled proposed changes to Title IX on Thursday that would prohibit schools, colleges, and universities from discriminating against transgender students. The department released the proposal on the 50th anniversary of the landmark legislation and amid a flurry of state laws targeting transgender youth. The proposals would also heavily reform rules introduced in the Trump administration that changed how schools investigate and resolve Title IX claims. Axios

- Out of control. The Supreme Court handed down a 135-page ruling striking down a New York gun law that restricts carrying a concealed weapon. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) criticized the ruling as “undermining common sense state laws,” while New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called the decision “shocking." Hochul said the state legislature would still finalize and approve new legislation that restricts carrying handguns in sensitive locations in an upcoming special session. The U.S. Senate also advanced a bipartisan gun control bill to enhance background checks for gun purchases. New York Times

- Family business. Fortune senior writer Maria Aspan recently spoke with Disney heiress Abigail Disney about her desire to fix the “troubling” disconnect between CEO compensation and worker pay. Now, the Disney heiress is reportedly preparing to launch a shareholder proxy fight to challenge Disney CEO Bob Chapek's $32.5 million annual compensation. The Wrap

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Sara Naison-Tarajano, partner and global head of private wealth management capital markets at Goldman Sachs, joined the Innocence Project’s board of directors. Marketing data standards platform Claravine has hired Jackie Cooper as vice president of customer experience. Jennifer Price has joined professional services firm Buro Happold as U.S. managing director and partner.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- War weary. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas wants western European countries to be wary of Russia’s military capabilities as its war against Ukraine enters the fifth month. Kallas warned against negotiating a peace deal with Russia, noting that similar action allowed the country to evade punishment for annexing the Crimean peninsula in 2014. “It is important to not make that mistake again like we did in Crimea, Donbas, Georgia,” she said. Associated Press

- Screening questions. Democratic senators, including Mazie Hirono and Tammy Duckworth, recently sent a letter to the Transportation Security Administration requesting that it clarify its rules on flying with breast milk and formula after an incident involving Netflix show host Emily Calandrelli. The senators are asking the TSA to address the uneven implementation of its policies by June 30. The 19th*

- On-track childcare. Track runner and Olympic medalist Allyson Felix is launching an initiative in partnership with Athleta and the nonprofit group &Mother to provide free childcare to athletes, coaches, and staff at the U.S. Track and Field championships. Felix has become an advocate for improved maternal health for Black women, and childcare for competing athletes, after experiencing complications with her pregnancy in 2018. Felix also plans to launch a third round of grants for female athletes in need of childcare expense coverage. NPR

ON MY RADAR

We can do better than Title IX New York Times

Thousands of 'witches' could be posthumously pardoned in Scotland Washington Post

My life was so broken that I pawned my Olympic gold medal Elle

Meghan Markle sends snacks and coffee to women campaigning for safe gun laws People

PARTING WORDS

"The minute I heard Beyoncé say, 'I just quit my job,' I knew I wasn't going back to my job tomorrow morning."

-Former Starbucks barista Giselle Galindo, who says she was inspired by Beyoncé's recent single "Break My Soul" to quit her job. 

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