Companies Backing Abortion Should Be Careful What They Wish For
Nicole Russell /
A vast array of corporations have come out in support of abortion in recent weeks—specifically to oppose “heartbeat bills” that ban abortion after six weeks, such as the ones recently signed into law in Georgia, Missouri, and Alabama.
Last week, leaders of more than 180 companies—including MAC Cosmetics, Yelp, and clothing-maker Eileen Fisher—signed a letter in a full-page ad in The New York Times, saying that “restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health, independence, and economic stability of our employees and customers.”
This follows several threats made by media companies, including Disney and Netflix, to stop filming in Georgia due to the “heartbeat bill” recently signed by Gov. Brian Kemp.
Just weeks ago, things were quieter. Bloomberg pointed out last month that “the corporate silence on abortion in Georgia and elsewhere has been deafening, especially compared with corporations’ eagerness to demonstrate their support for other progressive social issues, such as LGBT rights.”
So it’s curious that nearly 200 companies would suddenly come out swinging against these bans.
It’s especially odd given that public opinion on abortion is shifting. In a January Marist poll, 3 out of 4 Americans said they supported substantial restrictions on abortion. More recently, a Pew Research poll found that nearly 40% want abortion to be illegal “all or most of the time.”
Such restrictions enjoy robust support in some states, as reflected in the six-week bans recently passed by state legislatures. This surge in pro-life support has the abortion lobby worried.
No surprise, then, that the abortion lobby had a strong hand in organizing the New York Times letter.
NPR reports, “The letter is part of a broader campaign called Don’t Ban Equality, sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.”
The purpose? “Organizers say the letter marks the first step in engaging corporate supporters as the fight over abortion escalates.”
Alone, any one of those organizations listed has enormous sway, particularly in public policy. The ACLU spent $1.2 million on lobbying efforts last year alone. Yet together, these groups comprise a lobbying army with hundreds of politicians in their back pockets.
While America is, of course, a free country, and as such, corporations enjoy the freedom to participate in causes de jure, one has to ask: Where is the business sense in rallying to support abortion when many Americans object to it? After all, companies have paid a steep cost in the past for wading into controversial matters.
For instance, when Dick’s Sporting Goods decided it would enter the gun control debate by refraining from selling what it referred to as “assault-style” firearms, it faced a boycott and a reported $150 million in lost sales that year.
Likewise, Target lost over a million customers and took a significant financial hit after adopting a transgender bathroom policy in 2016.
Put simply, wading into political controversy is bad for business. Companies who indulge in controversial policy fights risk alienating a large chunk of their consumer base.
Clearly, the CEOs of those 180 companies are willing to take that risk in order to advocate abortion. We’ll see if that approach lasts.