On Friday, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade by concluding there was no constitutional right to an abortion. As a result, states are now free to impose absolute restrictions on a woman’s ability to terminate a pregnancy. Thanks to so-called “trigger laws” in 13 states, abortion is now illegal in a good portion of this nation. Recognizing this, many corporations including Disney, Amazon, and Starbucks have been expressing their intentions to support employees who wish to travel to states where abortions will still be available, assuming, that is, the Constitution really is “neither pro-life nor pro-choice” but “neutral” as Justice Brett Kavanaugh writes, and states are free to permit “abortion on demand.”
Is offering reimbursement for abortion travel more than a gesture? Will it amount to a brave act? Do these announcements foreshadow some willingness to fight for abortion rights? And if not, can Corporate America even avoid the turmoil to come? These are hard questions to answer because I’m not convinced that executives have really grappled with the post-Dobbs mayhem ahead. After all, until now, most companies have remained on the sidelines of the abortion debate.
The fact that major corporations kept a low profile on the abortion issue might not seem surprising, but that certainly wasn’t their posture in 2015, when the Supreme Court was tackling the hot-button cultural topic of gay marriage. Back then, 379 big companies including Apple, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, and the New England Patriots told the justices in an amicus brief that allowing states to prohibit gay marriage would impose economic burdens on them. What’s more, they added, “The end result is employee uncertainty, low morale, decreased productivity, and increased costs.”