Published in Health Care

Reporter's Notebook: Companies mum on SCOTUS abortion ruling

BY Sunday, July 03, 2022 06:07pm

More than half of America’s population lost their constitutional right to bodily autonomy on June 24 — a decision that kicked off the U.S. Supreme Court’s likely effort to take away additional fundamental rights from the country’s most disenfranchised citizens.

This might be the most historic and consequential policy shift in my lifetime, yet I see few signs outside of my social bubble that this landmark ruling had been overturned, particularly from the business community. Social media is rightfully awash with corporate support for the Black Lives Matter movement and Pride Month, but when it comes to fundamental reproductive health care rights? Few executives are speaking up.

As a reporter, I frequently scan social media after a major news event like this to see how companies are publicly responding. In this case of the high court overruling 50 years of precedent, I’ve confronted silence, and plenty of “no comments,” similar to what I experienced with business advocacy groups when I reported on this issue in January when it was then just a potential scenario. 

Well known women-led businesses and nonprofits that tout supporting women and diverse clientele are largely quiet. That includes a West Michigan company recognized multiple times for perfect scores on the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index. Even an area B Corp — a certification measuring a company’s environmental and social commitments — declined to comment when asked for a response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

While the muted corporate response to the SCOTUS ruling has been widely reported, I would have expected these socially aware companies to weigh in. Refusing to do so in the context of their purported commitment to equality smacks of hypocrisy.

Although this silence has been deafening, some local businesses have shown the courage to speak out.

A group of mostly smaller companies — including several that are woman- or queer-owned — have held fundraisers and events to collect signatures for the statewide ballot initiative to protect access to legal abortion in Michigan. Others have publicly issued pro-choice statements. (A position held by roughly 60 percent of Americans.) 

A couple of these business owners told me they felt compelled to speak out because the ruling and its future implications affects them, their staff and clientele.

The staff at Bobcat Bonnie’s, a small restaurant chain with a location in Grand Rapids, was deeply affected upon the news of the Supreme Court ruling, owner Matthew Buskard explained. The restaurant shortly after the ruling announced a $5 special on cocktails for “those who lost their reproductive rights.” The post received overwhelmingly positive feedback online and at the restaurants’ locations, except for a small group of anti-abortion comments, Buskard said. Bobcat Bonnie’s also donated $5,000 to Planned Parenthood.

“About 80 percent of our upper-management positions are all held by women,” Buskard said. “This (Supreme Court ruling) is an attack on the core of my business, who we are, our clientele and staff and literally everything. Our staff were universally appreciative that we said something.”

The Apartment Lounge shared condolences “to all those who have lost their reproductive rights today,” according to a Facebook post.

The ruling was too consequential to avoid addressing publicly because of how many people it affects, said Jason Martin, Apartment Lounge’s assistant manager who is also in charge of social media, marketing and community outreach.

“This opens up readdressing other laws like LGBTQ rights, specifically our right to marriage and making any homosexual act illegal,” Martin said. “If overturning Roe v. Wade is a gateway movement to be able to do that, it’s not only affecting women, it will affect our entire country. This is a very intense thing happening right now when it comes to a loss of rights — there is no way any business can just stand by and say nothing.”

Lotus Brew Coffee/Dry Bar also announced via Facebook that its doors are open to anyone looking for a safe space or sanctuary: “Don’t worry about buying a drink, our tables are open for anyone that needs a breather.”

Brewery Vivant and Books & Mortar Bookstore also held events last week to collect signatures for the ballot initiative to protect the right to abortion in Michigan. 

I’m glad that more businesses are speaking out about this issue, but I am also deeply disappointed. In our increasingly politicized country, I am disappointed in the lack of public statements from community leaders, nonprofits and local businesses about a decision that is putting so many people in danger or at the very least taking away our peace of mind that we have control over our own bodies.

Regardless of whether someone personally believes that people should be able to access a legal, safe abortion, the overturning of Roe v. Wade affects everyone. Not talking about abortion is a big reason why Roe v. Wade was overturned in the first place. Let’s at least keep the conversation going. 

Read 2135 times Last modified on Tuesday, 05 July 2022 17:40