Friday’s Supreme Court ruling overturning Rowe v. Wade prompted business leaders and employees across the country to seek answers on how to react, what to say – or what not to say – and the immediate practical implications of the decision.

“This is the time to pay off”

For American companies, there are urgent problems that require quick responses, starting with: What will this mean for employee health coverage? “I guarantee you that there are teams of lawyers trying to figure this out right now,” said Tom Baker, an insurance law expert at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Businesses have already been embroiled in political and social battles in recent years and are being shaken by competing demands from stakeholders – including activists, customers, consumers, shareholders and elected officials – on how to respond to the country’s raging cultural wars. .

Some executives are already beginning to focus on the potential for other shoes to be dropped: Judge Clarence Thomas’s agreed opinion has raised questions about what other rights may soon disappear. The reasoning that the Supreme Court uses to declare that it has no right to abortion, he argues, should also be used to set aside cases establishing contraceptive rights, consensual same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.

Local officials in states that restrict abortion are already threatening to punish companies that help employees gain access to it elsewhere; activists who support abortion rights are calling on businesses to reduce campaign donations to employees who oppose abortion.

“This is the time to pay off,” said Sonia Spoo, director of reproductive rights campaigns at gender justice organization UltraViolet, in a statement urging corporations to act. She named AT&T, Comcast and Disney in particular for their political donations and called on social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok to ensure that people have access to accurate abortion information.

There is also the following background: many companies are moving to states with lower taxes, and many of those same states are now ready to introduce an almost total ban on abortion.

In the past year, Tesla has moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Austin, Texas; just last week Citadel said it was moving from Chicago to Miami. This has been the guide to corporate America for decades: Find a blue enclave in a red state – Austin, Texas, Nashville, Tennessee – and move there for low taxes and a more affordable workforce.

This could be much more complicated in the aftermath of Friday’s quake.

“Texas, obviously, the economic argument was the main argument – at least for me it was one of the main arguments,” said Vivek Bhaskaran, chief executive of QuestionPro, a technology services company that moved its Austin headquarters from San Francisco just before the pandemic. “This definitely pauses the economic argument.” Managers tried to stay away from the clash – or intervened only after strong pressure from employees, with tumultuous results. In April, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, angry with Disney CEO Bob Chapek for speaking out against the state’s new parental rights law in education, forced the legislature to deprive the company of its special tax status.

Reaffirmation of commitments

Companies began coming up with policies to cover the travel costs of employees in need of abortions when a draft opinion that expired in May reviewed the judges’ decision in the case. This small group includes Starbucks, Tesla, Yelp, Airbnb, Netflix, Patagonia, DoorDash, JPMorgan Chase, Levi Strauss & Co., PayPal and Reddit.

Others, including Goldman Sachs, Disney, Meta, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Condé Nast, joined them on Friday when the decision became final, although most avoided making public statements, citing the decision directly. Instead, statements often bluntly signaled that companies offer medical services outside the country, apparently hoping to please employees without angering politicians.

Facebook has told employees not to discuss the solution for internal chat systems.

A spokesman for JPMorgan, the country’s largest bank with about 170,000 employees in the United States, said it was focused on equal access to health care for all its employees. She highlighted a June 1 note warning them that their travel expenses would be covered if they had to travel more than 50 miles to receive certain medical procedures, including abortions.

But the decision raises new questions about whether state authorities can try to prosecute businesses that offer to pay employees to travel outside the state for abortion, as lawmakers in Texas have threatened to do.

“This kind of decision requires workplace policy, and employers hate it,” said Austin Kaplan, a Texas employment lawyer.

A signal for the rest of the world

Outside the United States, the Supreme Court’s decision is being closely monitored.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the decision a “big step backwards”.

In Belgium, Prime Minister Alexander De Cru said on Twitter on Friday that he was concerned about the consequences of Rowe’s cancellation against Wade. “A ban on abortion never leads to fewer abortions, only to safer abortions,” he tweeted, adding that Belgium would continue to work with other countries to improve reproductive health and rights.

Nicolas Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, said the decision was one of the darkest days for women’s rights in her life. “Obviously, the immediate consequences will be borne by women in the United States, but this will encourage anti-abortion forces and women in other countries as well,” she wrote on Twitter.

Most of the European companies contacted by DealBook declined to comment or said it was too early to say how Supreme Court rulings on arms and abortion regulation affected their approach to seconding U.S. officials. countries in recent years, moved to ease restrictions on abortion. In the United States, some women leaders have already expressed their views. Julie Jones, president of Ropes & Gray, wrote to employees on Friday in a note received by DealBook: “As a woman, I have a deep sense of vulnerability caused by the abolition of women’s long-standing rights – rights that affect their bodies and their freedom. .

“As a privileged person,” she continued, “I acknowledge and worry about the disproportionate impact of the decision on women with limited resources. As an American, I fear that the divisive nature of this issue will further break the already angry and divided citizens. As a Ropes & Gray leader, I am concerned about the impact of this decision on our community. “

The economic impact

During a Senate hearing last month, after an expired draft ruling indicated that the Supreme Court would overturn Rowe against Wade, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the abortion ban would hurt both the US economy and the economic outlook for women. .

She added that legalizing abortion has helped increase labor force participation among women and that “denying women access to abortion increases their chances of living in poverty or in need of social assistance.”

A 2020 working document published in the National Bureau of Economic Research comparing the economic performance of women who had access to abortion with those who did not have access found that those without access experienced “a large increase in financial a difficulty that has persisted for several years’. He also concluded that women who have been denied an abortion have significantly more public records that include events such as expulsions and bankruptcies.

For companies that do not want to deal with political or social issues, Sarah Miller, an assistant professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and lead author of the article, said restraint can affect the cost of their work because “In at some point in the pandemic, women crossed the 50% threshold for the workforce.

This article originally appeared in New York Times.

Businesses are bracing for the political and social fight post-Roe

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