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With Roe v. Wade Overturned, Companies Stay Silent on Abortion

  • June 25, 2022

A few companies accompanied those policy changes with statements. Roger Lynch, the head of Condé Nast, called the decision “a crushing blow to reproductive rights.” Lyft said the ruling “will hurt millions of women.” BuzzFeed’s chief executive, Jonah Peretti, called it “regressive and horrific.” Some business leaders spoke out too, with Bill Gates, the co-founder and former head of Microsoft, calling the ruling “an unjust and unacceptable setback,” and Sheryl Sandberg, the former chief operating officer of Meta, writing that it “threatens to undo the progress women have made in the workplace.”

But many companies that have spoken out on social issues like racism did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment after the Supreme Court’s decision, including Target, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Delta and Wendy’s. Hobby Lobby, which in 2014 brought a successful suit to the Supreme Court challenging whether employer-provided health care had to include contraception, declined to comment on the Dobbs decision.

In recent years there has been a growing expectation that companies weigh in on political and social issues. The share of online American adults who believe that companies have a responsibility to participate in debates about current issues has risen in the past year, according to the consumer research company Forrester. The expectation is even more pronounced among younger social media users, according to research from Sprout Social.

When George Floyd was killed by the police in 2020, public companies and their foundations committed over $49 billion to fighting racial inequality. Last year, after Georgia’s Republican-led legislature restricted voter access, some chief executives, including from Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, criticized the law, and 72 Black business leaders published a letter urging corporate leaders to “publicly oppose any discriminatory legislation.”

With abortion, public opinion is a little different: Forrester found that fewer respondents believed companies should take a stance on abortion. Polls have consistently found that a majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, but a recent survey by Pew Research Center found that people have wide-ranging views about morality on the issue. Companies fear the backlash that could come from taking a stance on the issue.

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