Texas Law Presents Companies With Yet Another Hot-Button Issue

Thom Weidlich 09.23.21


A big trend of the past few years has been companies being more vocal about political issues. The strict anti-abortion law recently passed in Texas presents a challenge for such organizations — one that most have declined. But several dozen just signed an open letter objecting to the measure.

Many observers say companies should steer clear of controversial topics. Others note that many — especially young — consumers want companies (and their CEOs) to be more vocal. The situation is fraught. One truism is that organizations do better sticking to controversial topics that relate to how they make a living.

Recent divisive issues have included the Trump travel ban in 2017, voting rights and access, and the Black Lives Matter movement, including protests by NFL players. Abortion is certainly another tough topic, though studies show most Americans support reproductive choice.

The Texas law, which in practice bans abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, went into effect Sept. 1. There wasn’t much response from Corporate America. It’s a difficult issue. Uber and Lyft, whose drivers can be sued under the law if they transport a woman to have an abortion, garnered some ink when they said they would pay their employees’ legal fees.

Open Letter

The corporate silence appears to be changing. More than 50 companies signed the open letter issued Tuesday. Many are not household names, but some are: Patagonia, The Body Shop, Yelp, Lyft, Box Inc., Ben & Jerry’s. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, noted that companies including Starbucks and Microsoft declined to sign, but didn’t say why. While many of the companies that did sign aren’t based in Texas, some have operations there, the WSJ also noted.

Under the headline, “Don’t Ban Equality in Texas,” the short letter stays focused on how the law will affect the businesses, especially in hiring and diversity. “Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health, independence, and economic stability of our workers and customers,” it notes. “Simply put, policies that restrict reproductive health care go against our values and are bad for business.”

Focusing on the economics was a wise approach to a tough task.

Photo Credit: Paul Quinn/Shutterstock

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