The Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade is triggering a predictable reaction from various “woke” corporations – or, perhaps more accurately, from corporations intimidated by woke activists and employees.
They should stay out of it. Abortion is a political, moral, and religious issue – not an economic one. Corporations should respect that their employees, shareholders, business partners, and customers hold widely differing views.
Unfortunately, many of the usual big corporate suspects are moving aggressively to advance a one-sided, pro-abortion agenda.
Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Disney, and JP Morgan, among others, are pledging to undermine state abortion restrictions by covering costs for their employees to travel to other states for abortions.
Going further, Live Nation Entertainment, America’s predominant concert promoter, is giving $500,000 to the nation’s leading abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. And – in the face of ongoing intimidation and violence against pro-life centers, Catholic churches, and Supreme Court justices’ homes – Live Nation and outdoor clothing company Patagonia have promised to bail out employees arrested while “peacefully” protesting.
Given that peaceful, law-abiding protesters don’t generally get arrested – and that 2020’s violent rioting by Antifa and Black Lives Matter groups was repeatedly characterized as “mostly peaceful” by woke activists and their supporters – one questions exactly how Live Nation and Patagonia are defining “peaceful” in this current context.
As yet, there have not been direct threats of economic blackmail through which left-leaning corporations have previously sought to force states to abandon policies they didn’t like – policies that, like abortion, were unrelated to their business functions.
For example, in 2015 then-Gov. Mike Pence and the Indiana legislature felt forced to amend their newly passed religious freedom law when various corporate interests, led by the Indianapolis-based NCAA, threatened to pull business from the state. And the following year, then-Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a religious liberty bill after Hollywood, the NFL, the NCAA, and major companies including Disney, Apple, and Time Warner ganged up with threats to withdraw business and investments from Georgia.
One reason the corporate bullies may be slow to employ this approach is that state governments have started pushing back. In 2019, Hollywood again threatened Georgia, this time over its passage of a “heartbeat” abortion bill. Gov. Brian Kemp signed it anyway, and Hollywood’s threatened boycott never materialized. Then in 2021, Gov. Kemp and the Georgia legislature stood up to Major League Baseball when it pulled its All-Star Game from Atlanta over the state’s newly enacted election reform law. The law stood and, in the most recent primaries, proved to be what Georgia officials said it was – a boost to voter access and protection from election fraud.
And of course, in Florida, when Disney tried to strong-arm the government with economic threats in opposition to a parental rights bill regarding the sexual propagandizing of very young schoolchildren, Gov. Ron DeSantis flipped the script. He ended many special tax and regulatory favors Disney had enjoyed in Florida for decades.
In fact, many of these woke-friendly corporations enjoy various government tax breaks, regulatory exemptions, and fiscal perks. And that raises another objection to their agitating against the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling.
State governments grant them special favors with the understanding that they will be used to stimulate economic development. It is wholly inappropriate for these taxpayer-provided resources to be used for political advocacy, especially to take one side on such a deeply divisive moral issue as abortion.
While the success of Georgia’s election reform law helps put the lie to corporate claims that their leftist activism is in defense of democracy, nowhere does the fallacy of this claim become more apparent than in the current abortion controversy.
For it is not this Supreme Court decision that undermines democracy. It was in Roe v. Wade that the Court did so, removing the abortion issue from the democratic process and arrogating to itself the authority to dictate the abortion laws of all 50 states.
The current ruling – which takes no position on what state abortion laws should be – simply returns the issue to the people, acting through their elected representatives.
That is the essence of democracy. Corporate America should respect it, not work to undermine it.
Peter Flaherty is Chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center. This piece originally ran at RealClearPolitics.