US anti-abortion laws test activist reputation of business leaders

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Republican efforts to restrict women’s access to abortions in several US states are testing business leaders’ growing willingness to speak out on the social issues that most divide Americans.

In recent days several media companies have threatened to boycott Georgia if a controversial anti-abortion law takes effect in the state. NBC Universal, Viacom and WarnerMedia on Thursday followed Netflix and Walt Disney in warning that restricting women’s reproductive rights could harm their ability to operate in the state where movies such as Avengers: Endgame and series such as Stranger Things were filmed.

Georgia’s Republican governor on May 7 signed into law a ban on abortions after a doctor can detect a foetal heartbeat, which can be about six weeks into a pregnancy. Critics have argued that women are often unaware if they are pregnant at that stage. The law is set to go into effect in 2020 if it survives court challenges.  The comments from the media companies followed a pattern of business leaders becoming increasingly vocal on issues ranging from immigration to gay rights and gun control. But despite polls showing growing public support for such “CEO activism”, few executives have been so willing to speak out on reproductive rights.

A recent white paper from NARAL, a pro-choice campaign group, noted that many companies were “hesitant” to address the “delicate” issue of abortion, but urged chief executives to do so.

Many businesses had spoken out on workplace equality and equal pay, it noted, but reproductive rights “are largely absent from conversations about women’s advancement and equality in the workplace”.  Polling suggests abortion is one of the riskiest topics on which a CEO can take a public position.

A survey by Morning Consult last year found that 30 per cent of Americans would have a more … Read More...