CEOs Sound Off on Restrictive Abortion Laws

June 10, 2019

By Rebecca Heilweil

More than 180 CEOs, including Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, Tinder CEO Elie Seidman, and Glossier CEO Emily Weiss, have signed a letter, dubbed "Don't Ban Equality," defending the right to abortion, and framing recent legislation limiting ー and in the case of Alabama, banning ー the procedure as bad for business.

The letter, which was coordinated by the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and NARAL Pro-Choice America, appeared as a full-page ad in the New York Times. The ad stated that the CEOs collectively employed more than 108,000 people.

Other companies represented in the letter include Refinery29, Ben & Jerry’s, Slack, and Zoom.

Two weeks ago, seven female-founded brands, including Thinx and Cora, ran a similar advertisement defending abortion as a “constitutional right” and “not up for debate,” as reported by Vogue.

In recent months, several states have sought to restrict access to abortion. Montana, Kentucky, Ohio, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia have all passed so-called “heartbeat bills,” which are meant to prohibit abortion after a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected. In effect, the legislation bans abortion six to eight weeks following conception (or about two weeks after a person first misses their period).

Alabama’s laws are the harshest, banning abortion altogether (unless the mother’s health is at risk). Doctors who perform the procedure could face up to 99 years in prison.

None of these laws have yet gone into effect.

“The letter was so incredibly important because access to reproductive freedom requires all of us to stand up and speak out in corporate America because it provides to us the ability to work,” said Amy Nelson, the founder and CEO of the women’s co-working space The Riveter. “That’s something for both men and women to think about.”

“I think some companies will shy away from anything they see as political,” said Nelson. “I also think that companies will start to speak out more around issues that might involve things that are political as people choose to spend their dollars more based on their values. And this is a value held by most Americans, that there should be access to reproductive rights.”

“There so many more companies that could ー and should ー join us, particularly led by men. I think right now, at this moment in time, it’s so important that male CEOs join us with our voices and speak out.”

“I signed the letter on behalf of the company because nobody should be forced to have a baby if they don’t want to,” said Karen Cahn, the founder and CEO of iFundWomen, a crowdfunding system for women-led businesses. “The bottom line is: time is money. And all of this time spent dealing with a baby that somebody doesn’t want is costly, it’s bad for business, and it’s bad for our economy.”

“We need as big a megaphone as we can get,” said Cahn. “The CEOs are speaking out because it’s truly bad for business.” She argued that in both the short and long-term, limiting reproductive options for women reduces female employees’ ability to work.

“Our north star at iFundWomen is driving funding volume for entrepreneurs. Frankly, anything getting in the way of that, which is restrictive health care for women, we’ll take a stand on,” Cahn said, adding: “Now is not any special time. We’re going backwards, so we just have to speak out.’

“There’s never been a more important time to stick a flag in the sand and stand for human rights. And reproductive rights are definitely human rights,” Evie Smith, the CEO of the Portland-based Rebellious PR, told Cheddar.

The impact of restrictive abortion legislation previously made news following Netflix’s announcement that the streaming giant would reconsider working in Georgia, should the state’s restrictive abortion bill go into effect.

Government agencies and departments concerned with business development mostly did not respond to Cheddar’s request for comment.

The Ohio Development Services Agency directed Cheddar to a report that April 2019 added the fourth-highest number of business filings in the state’s history.

For full interview click here.