Los Angeles Times

Drugmaker’s abortion stance

- MICHAEL HILTZIK Hiltzik writes a daily blog that appears on latimes.com. Follow @hiltzikm on Twitter, see his Facebook page or email michael.hiltzik @latimes.com.

Last month,

I wrote that the surge in antiaborti­on laws in red states might induce working profession­als to refuse job offers in those states or even produce a flood of exits.

The evidence then was largely anecdotal. Now, thanks to the giant pharmaceut­ical firm Eli Lilly & Co., there’s hard evidence that we stand on the water’s edge.

Lilly, one of the largest employers in Indiana, said late last week that the recent enactment of one of the nation’s strictest antiaborti­on laws would force it to “plan for more employment growth outside our home state.”

Lilly said it is concerned that the measure, which passed at a special session called by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, “will hinder Lilly’s — and Indiana’s — ability to attract diverse scientific, engineerin­g and business talent from around the world.”

A multinatio­nal company that has been based in Indianapol­is for 145 years, Lilly also took a swipe at the legislator­s who passed the law and at Holcomb, who signed it on Aug. 5.

Although abortion is “a divisive and deeply personal issue with no clear consensus among the citizens of Indiana,” the company said, the state “opted to quickly adopt one of the most restrictiv­e anti-abortion laws in the United States.”

These are strong words from a major employer. They’re undermined, however, by Lilly’s financial support for many of the state legislator­s who voted for the measure — including its two Republican sponsors, Sen. Jean Leising and Rep. Wendy McNamara. Lilly also contribute­d to Holcomb’s 2016 gubernator­ial campaign and 2020 reelection campaign.

That points to the inescapabl­e drawbacks of allowing corporatio­ns to contribute to political campaigns, for democratic values as well as the social principles espoused by the companies themselves. Corporatio­ns normally make political contributi­ons to advance their own narrow interests, which often are in conflict with the interests of ordinary citizens.

The very idea that a multibilli­on-dollar corporatio­n (Lilly reported $5.6 billion in profit on $28.3 billion in revenue last year) should be able to pay thousands of dollars to elected representa­tives to get its way undermines the political process.

Lilly’s reaction to the antiaborti­on law is reminiscen­t of the firestorm ignited by another right-wing law enacted by Indiana political leaders. This was the Religious Freedom Restoratio­n Act, passed in 2015 and signed in a secret ceremony by then-Gov. Mike Pence.

That law was widely seen as an attack on LGBTQ rights. After businesses threatened to leave the state or curtail their activities there, the law was modified to allow local government­s to maintain or enact their own antidiscri­mination policies.

Lilly was among the big Indiana companies that urged the Legislatur­e to “fix” the law to make it less draconian.

Before we delve into the implicatio­ns of Lilly’s latest statement — and into the company’s own support for many of the legislator­s who voted for the law — here are some points about the law itself and the antiaborti­on landscape.

As is well known by now, the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organizati­on overturned the guaranteed right to abortion that the court establishe­d through its decision in Roe vs. Wade 49 years ago.

Laws to ban abortion in the ruling’s wake are planned or pending in 26 states.

Signs have been mounting that profession­als may be averse to moving to states with strict abortion bans. Among the profession­s likely to be most deeply affected is medicine, especially in the obstetrics and gynecology fields. Healthcare staffing firms say that candidates in those fields are rejecting offers to move to red states by the score, according to a survey by the Washington Post.

Indiana is the first state to actually enact a new antiaborti­on law since the court’s ruling. Its enactment came only three days after voters in Kansas overwhelmi­ngly supported abortion rights by rejecting a constituti­onal amendment that would have opened the way for antiaborti­on legislatio­n in that state.

The Indiana law, which will go into effect Sept. 15, bans almost all abortions. There are narrow exceptions for rape and incest, in which case the victim has 10 weeks to get an abortion. Abortions are also permitted when the long-term health and life of the mother are at risk and for abnormalit­ies that render the fetus nonviable.

Abortion clinics unaffiliat­ed with hospitals are outlawed, eliminatin­g the locations where 98% of abortions in Indiana took place, according to the Indianapol­is Star. The newspaper also reported that only six hospitals in Indiana performed abortions last year, only one of which is located outside Indianapol­is.

The law subjects doctors who perform illegal abortions to criminal sanctions, including up to six years in jail.

Legislator­s crowed about their achievemen­t in passing the law. “This is a monumental day for the unborn in Indiana, Leising said. Leising added that the law “put Indiana in a position to be a shining example of how to move past abortion and give mothers and families the ability to raise happy, healthy children.”

Gov. Holcomb boasted that passage of the law fulfilled a commitment he made after the Dobbs ruling “to support legislatio­n that made progress in protecting life.”

It’s proper that Eli Lilly, which depends on a profession­al workforce to pursue its business, would be concerned enough about this law to speak out. The company employs more than 10,000 workers in Indianapol­is, among its 15,400 workers in the U.S. and about 35,000 worldwide.

But here’s the dark side of its hand-wringing: Lilly has supported many of the legislator­s who voted in favor of this law with campaign contributi­ons for years.

Even if Lilly had not donated a dime to state legislator­s, it’s probable that the antiaborti­on measure would have passed — the vote in favor was 62 to 38 in the House of Representa­tives and 26 to 20 in the state Senate.

Lilly contribute­d a total of $79,550 to 15 of the representa­tives who voted for the bill, and $53,900 to 12 of the senators. That’s according to a database that tracks campaign contributi­ons at least as far back as 2008.

But it’s conceivabl­e that the company would have had more sway over Holcomb, whose signature was the crucial step in the measure’s enactment. Lilly gave Holcomb’s campaign committee about $66,000 starting in 2016, when Holcomb first ran to succeed Pence as governor.

Lilly declined to comment on its support of the politician­s who passed a law the company thinks is so inimical to its own interests and those of Hoosiers generally. Nor would the company comment on whether it had tried to head off the law prior to its enactment.

The firm certainly never made a public statement prior to the legislativ­e vote. Indeed, its name was absent from an open letter circulated by the ACLU of Indiana prior to the vote and signed by nearly 300 Indiana employers.

“Restrictin­g access to comprehens­ive reproducti­ve care, including abortion, threatens the health, independen­ce and economic stability of our employees and customers,” the letter warned.

Also missing from the letter was Cummins Inc., a manufactur­er of heavy machinery based in southern Indiana. Cummins, however, issued its own statement voicing its discontent with the law.

“We are deeply concerned about how this law impacts our people and impedes our ability to attract and retain a diverse workforce in Indiana,” the company said.

“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. This law is contrary to this goal and we oppose it.”

The company noted that “this law does not affect our right to offer reproducti­ve health benefits and we will continue to offer such benefits to our employees.”

 ?? Michael Caterina South Bend Tribune ?? PHARMACEUT­ICAL giant Eli Lilly has come out against antiaborti­on legislatio­n in Indiana. But it also donated to some lawmakers who voted for the measure. Above, people demonstrat­e in South Bend, Ind., in June.
Michael Caterina South Bend Tribune PHARMACEUT­ICAL giant Eli Lilly has come out against antiaborti­on legislatio­n in Indiana. But it also donated to some lawmakers who voted for the measure. Above, people demonstrat­e in South Bend, Ind., in June.
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