In Indiana, a bill banning nearly all abortions became law on Friday after passing through the state Senate and being signed by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb. The law, Senate Bill 1, takes effect on Sep. 15. S.B. 1 makes Indiana the first state to pass an abortion restriction after Roe v. Wade‘s overturn and ninth state to ban abortion outright, alongside Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas.
In response to the extreme legislation, some of the state’s largest employers are raising concerns about the harmful effects of the law—both on the health of current and future residents of Indiana, and on the companies’ abilities to recruit top talent.
Drug company Eli Lilly employs over 10,000 Hoosiers alone. “Given this new law,” the company said in a statement, “we will be forced to plan for more employment growth outside our home state.” The company has offered to cover travel costs for employees seeking reproductive services out of state, but admitted this provision “may not be enough for some current and potential employees.”
Soon after, a spokesman for Cummins, a Columbus-based engine company employing 10,000, voiced similar concern over S.B. 1. A statement expressed “deep concern” with how the law impacts employees of the company and impedes its ability to attract and retain a diverse workforce in Indiana. “Cummins believes that women should have the right to make reproductive healthcare decisions as a matter of gender equity, ensuring that women have the same opportunity as others to participate fully in the workforce and that our workforce is diverse,” the company said in its statement. “This law is contrary to this goal and we oppose it.”
Rachel Simon, an Indianapolis-based philanthropist, testified against S.B. 1 on the floor of the state Senate on July 25. Rachel’s father Herbert Simon is the owner of the Indiana Pacers; he and his brother Melvin Simon founded Simon Property Group, the largest owner of shopping centers in the state. “Denying individuals full bodily autonomy is a dehumanizing, archaic, oppressive, invasion of privacy,” she said. “The ramifications of this bill will be far-reaching.”
Simon spoke of her family’s “deep gratitude for this state, its people and its potential.” She continued, “S.B. 1 will result in irreparable damage to Indiana’s already suffering reputation. It will greatly hinder our ability to recruit, retain and attract new talent across all sectors, from the arts to tech to sports. We can expect businesses and individuals to relocate, divest and boycott.”
(The remainder of this piece is adapted from an original reported piece from Linda Burstyn, “Bad Business,” featured in the Summer 2022 issue of Ms. Become a member today to read more reporting like this in print and through our app.)
Attacks on Abortion Are ‘Bad for Business’
“The attack on abortion is bad for business,” said Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability, an organization that tries to bring transparency to corporate political spending. “It has a chilling effect on the overall economy and society—an economy and society that need to be healthy in order for the companies to grow and thrive.”
If all state-level abortion restrictions were eliminated, there would be an estimated over a half a million more women aged 15 to 44 would be in the labor force, according to a report conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR).
IWPR also estimates that state economies will lose $105 billion per year under abortion bans. And the states that stand to lose the most are the ones that have recently put bans in place: Texas will lose $14.6 billion per year, Florida will lose $6.6 billion, and Missouri will lose $5.3 billion.
“Abortion restrictions are going to depress economic growth and GDP [gross domestic product] by keeping women out of the workforce during their most productive years,” said Shelley Alpern, director of corporate engagement at Rhia Ventures, a socially conscious investment firm.
Of course, the women who will lose their jobs are not simply workers—they’re also spenders. When states deliberately create conditions that reduce family incomes and bring more poverty to the customer base, it stands to reason that the impact will be felt by the companies within that state.
And there is no doubt that these laws bring poverty for the women who are denied abortions: A study from the University of California, San Francisco, that followed 1,000 women over the course of five years found that those who wanted an abortion and were denied one experienced an increase in household poverty that lasted at least four years, compared to similar women who were able to get the abortion they sought. Years after the abortion denial, those same women were more likely to not have enough money to cover basic living expenses and they had four times greater odds of living below the federal poverty level.
The study also found that after being denied an abortion, a woman’s credit score lowered, her debt increased and she was more likely to stay in contact with a violent partner for the next five years rather than raise the child alone.
When a woman seeking an abortion is forced to bear a child, the costs to her and her family—and eventually the cost to the economy—can extend for a lifetime.
Tough to Attract Talent
Studies have found that because of the anti-abortion laws in states like Texas, Mississippi, Florida and Oklahoma, corporations will have a hard time finding top employees—women and men—who want to work there.
A survey by Tara Health Foundation and Morning Consult found that 97 percent of respondents who accepted a position that required them to relocate considered the social policies of that state before making their decision. By a 2-to-1 margin, employed adults said they’d prefer to live in a state where abortion is legal and accessible.
According to a Rhia Ventures report, 56 percent of college-educated women say they would not apply to a job in a state that has recently banned abortion, and 61 percent of women surveyed said they would be discouraged from taking a job in a state that has tried to restrict abortion.
“Studies show that majorities of men and women will cross these states off their lists,” Alpern said. “Having employees who can’t control their own family-planning trajectories means having a workforce where there’s unexpected … and elevated turnover. What you’re going to see is a brain drain. Top talent from the best schools are not going to want to go work in those states.”
Because the far-reaching health and legal ramifications of these laws have not yet been widely felt or realized, it’s reasonable to predict that there will be a significant increase in the numbers of employees refusing to work in states with restrictive abortion laws as those ramifications become more widely known.
So Why Fund Anti-Abortion Lawmakers?
Some of the leaders of these major corporations may have a predisposition to support the Republican Party, no matter the consequences. For example, the senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs at AT&T is Ed Gillespie, former chair of the Republican National Committee. It’s not surprising that with Gillespie influencing corporate donations, AT&T is one of the biggest donors to Republican state legislators who are at the forefront of pushing the abortion bans.
For other companies, it’s more complicated.
“The companies we talk to and the people we talk to there can’t stand that so many stakeholder groups come to them to solve social problems,” Alpern said. “[As they see it] they’re there to make their widget of choice. But it’s a different world now. There’s no going back to the time when people don’t look to corporations to solve social problems.”