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It’s a good thing, but isn’t it a little odd that corporate America is suddenly silent on such a hot-button issue as abortion? Since the leaked opinion from the Supreme Court was exposed, there has been a deafening silence from the woke CEOs so eager to weigh in on controversial issues.
It would be nice if corporate America finally realized that consumers don’t care about the personal opinions of CEOs and resent it when those opinions are pushed on the general public. For example, was it really such a good idea for Disney to come out on the opposite side of parental rights in public schools when its original business model was built around providing wholesome family entertainment? The first inclination from Disney was not to jump into the fray with the battle over the Florida Parental Rights in Education bill. However, pressured by lefty progressive employees, the CEO flipped and dived right in.
Frankly, I don’t think that corporate America has learned its lesson yet. When it comes to abortion, though, I think they have simply taken a silent approach because abortion is the ultimate hot-button issue in America. Instead, companies have made the decision to ensure abortion expenses will be covered under corporate benefits plans. Some companies have announced that they will reimburse employees for travel expenses if Roe v Wade is overturned and the issue of legal abortion goes back to the states. There has not been any grandiose statements made with the appropriate level of angry indignation on social media or in interviews. Disney, Walmart, American Airlines, Microsoft, and J.P. Morgan, to name a few, have not made public comments. The Business Roundtable said it “does not have a position on this issue.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hasn’t made a public comment.
Are they just taking a wait and see approach? The leaked opinion isn’t the final ruling and it may not end up being what Alito presented in that draft. We just won’t know until the court releases its official ruling, which will likely be toward the end of June.
“There is no upside in speaking out alone on this. So that is why they need to work collectively,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, professor and senior associate dean of the Yale School of Management. “Nobody wants to have 40% of the country mad at them.”
Sonnenfeld said trade groups, which historically have been the most powerful and safe way for companies to step out, have become “overly cautious” and “neutered” by professional staffs who pingpong between lobbying jobs and don’t want to make waves.
“They would rather write mealy-mouthed, inconsequential, tedious working papers that don’t lead to any clear directives, so that the more you read, the less you know,” Sonnenfeld said.
Sonnenfeld, by the way, has garnered publicity since Putin’s invasion into Ukraine for keeping a list of companies who continue to do business in Russia though most have decided to at least take a pause in business operations as a show of support for Ukraine.
Some companies like Home Depot admit they are taking a wait and see approach.
Home Depot, for example, declined to comment through a spokesperson, saying “since this is a draft, it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to speculate on the court’s final ruling.” CVS Health, which owns thousands of drugstores and health insurer Aetna, said in a statement that it is “monitoring the situation closely and evaluating how we can best support the coverage needs of our colleagues, clients and consumers.”
By staying quiet, companies may be courting a harsh response from customers and employees. About 58% of Americans said they would not like to see the Supreme Court overturn its Roe v. Wade decision, versus 32% who would like to see it go, according to the most recent Gallup poll available, which was conducted in May 2021. An NBC News poll from September shows that 54% of Americans believe it should be legal to get an abortion in all or most instances.
Some tech companies couldn’t resist and went ahead and weighed in. Facebook’s parent company Meta didn’t but it’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, did on her personal Facebook page.
“This is a scary day for women all across our country,” said Sandberg, who has been a longtime advocate for addressing disparities facing women in the workplace. “If the leaked draft opinion becomes the law of the land, one of our most fundamental rights will be taken away. 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.”
The 19th, a self-professed “independent, nonprofit newsroom reporting on gender, politics and policy” leans left and employs mostly women in leadership and writing staff. It only received responses from two companies out of 30 it reached out to, including those led by women.
And yet only a handful of companies have publicly addressed the seemingly imminent fall of Roe. The 19th reached out to 30 of the largest employers in the country, including some of the Fortune 500 companies led by women — this year at a historic high — including CVS, Walgreens and General Motors, and companies that are major contributors to anti-abortion political action committees, such as Walmart, Coca-Cola and Google.
Only two in that group — Amazon and Citigroup — have said they will cover costs for employees who live in a state banning abortion to get the procedure in another state, though Amazon’s announcement, which came just hours before the draft ruling was leaked, is limited to employees on employer-sponsored health insurance and excludes many of the lowest paid employees, such as drivers.
T-Mobile, which has donated more than $340,000 since 2016 to groups heavily involved in electing anti-abortion senators, state legislators and governors, said in a statement Friday that its “political donations have always been bipartisan and solely focused on supporting issues and topics relevant to our business and industry.”
The rest of the companies declined to comment or did not respond at all.
It is not logical for businesses to get out in front of controversial political issues. It hurts their bottom line. American voters can’t be painted with such wide strokes. A majority of American voters may support the right to an abortion up to 16 weeks but after that, support falls off. The majority of Americans still want some restrictions on abortions. The bill in the Senate yesterday was an extreme example of progressives gone wild. There were no restrictions on abortion and Joe Machin crossed over and voted with Republicans against it. Pro-choice Republicans like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski said the bill was too extreme to support.
We’ll see if this newly-found restraint coming from corporate America continues when the final ruling is released by the Supreme Court.