Corporate America Has the Responsibility to Invoke Change for Good
Last month I participated in a panel hosted by NARAL and The Harris Poll about the role of business in protecting women’s access to reproductive rights. Today I look back on that timely conversation as more important than ever. Missouri and Alabama just passed some of the most extreme abortion bans we’ve seen since Roe v. Wade. We have now seen fifteen states ban abortion in the first five months of 2019. Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi have also passed six-week bans this year. On May 21, organizations like All* Above All Action Fund, ACLU, EMILY’s List, Indivisible, MoveOn, NARAL, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood, UltraViolet, Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, Women’s March, and more mobilized thousands from coast to coast to #stopthebans. Yet at a time when public sentiment has been loudly heard, noticeably absent from this conversation was the corporate voice.
Reproductive health and family planning may spark controversy in corporations, much like HIV/AIDS did in the 90s. As consumer sentiment changes, so do corporate actions. In the past year alone, we have seen the corporate community make strong, public stands in response to trending social and business issues including bias in the workplace, equal pay, immigration, and the environment. But when it comes to the topic of reproductive justice, family planning and healthcare rights they are disturbingly quiet. You can’t talk about women’s empowerment and gender equality in the workplace and not talk about sexual and reproductive health. New research from NARAL and The Harris Poll found that 60 percent of employees would be more loyal to a company that offered coverage for prenatal care, family planning, and abortion. For companies facing the unending battles to find and keep the best talent, supporting women’s health and safety seems a no brainer.
Sexual and reproductive health is at the heart of the most important decisions a woman makes: if and when to marry; when and how to advance her career; if, when, and how many children to have. It also affects the safety and wellbeing of employees who sustain our economies. Criminalization doesn’t stop abortion -- it only makes it more dangerous and oppressively burdensome. And we know that women of color, indigenous, immigrant, undocumented, and low-income women will be disproportionately impacted by the abortion bans. These are the women whose health and economic security is most at peril. These women are the backbone of the American economy. And we are failing them.
At a time when the fight for reproductive justice and women’s rights feels most urgent, this is precisely when the corporate community should step up and show up for their employees. Companies and their leaders can no longer wait it out. The criminalization of abortion care endangers lives and threatens the very fabric of a society intent on advancing economic opportunities.
Here are a few ways companies can take meaningful action to show employees and consumers that they value women's and girls advancement, reproductive rights, and freedom:
Publicly support sexual and reproductive health, including the protection of Title X, the nation’s only federal grant devoted to family planning.
Prioritize the rights and safety of all women by addressing gender inequity and barriers across your core business strategies.
Change corporate codes of conduct, discrimination and sexual harassment policies to fully integrate gender equality, safety, and women’s health.
Integrate gender equality considerations into buying practices and supply-chain processes.
The intersection of business, reproductive rights, and inclusivity is real. These issues impact brands, consumers, and, perhaps most importantly, their workforce. What we are witnessing today is a full on, large-scale attack on women’s health care and the economic future of our country. There is no gray area here—this is a business imperative. Corporate leaders, here’s your call to action: Support and normalize reproductive autonomy as an essential element of a just, equitable, and economically thriving society.