The Washington Post

More than 180

- BY RACHEL SIEGEL rachel.siegel@washpost.com

chief executives signed an open letter opposing recent state restrictio­ns on abortion.

More than 180 CEOs signed an open letter opposing state efforts to restrict reproducti­ve rights, as business leaders weigh how to most effectivel­y exert pressure against abortion bans.

Square chief executive and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey as well as fashion icon Diane von Furstenber­g and others wrote that restrictio­ns on abortion access threaten the economic stability of their employees and customers and make it harder to build a diverse workforce and recruit talent.

The letter, which appeared Monday as a full-page ad in the New York Times, marks the business community’s latest foray into a polarizing societal issue. The chief executives of Bloomberg News, Atlantic Records, Yelp and Warby Parker, among others, aligned themselves with such national organizati­ons as Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproducti­ve Rights.

The move also comes nearly four weeks after Alabama signed off on the nation’s most restrictiv­e abortion law. Other states, including Georgia, have adopted similar laws.

“As anti-choice politician­s are escalating attacks on these fundamenta­l freedoms, we encourage the entire business community to join us in protecting access to reproducti­ve health care in the critical months and years to come,” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement.

Georgia’s law, signed last month by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which typically occurs near the six-week mark and before many women even know they are pregnant. Alabama banned virtually all abortions in the state — including for victims of rape and incest. Antiaborti­on supporters expect that the laws will ignite a broader state-by-state strategy to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to take a new look at Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Several industries have moved to exert pressure on states that limit access to abortion. Some of the biggest names in Hollywood — including Walt Disney and WarnerMedi­a — have suggested that they might pull their business from Georgia if its new law survives a court challenge. Filmmaking is a $9.5 billion industry in Georgia that created more than 92,000 jobs last year, according to a McKinsey study.

But even among the law’s staunch objectors, there isn’t a consensus on how companies should respond. Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost Georgia’s gubernator­ial race last year, is urging Hollywood to keep its business in the state, saying a boycott would only strip working-class people of their jobs with no guarantee it would reverse the new law.

“We encourage the entire business community to join us in protecting access to reproducti­ve health care.”

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America

She and other business leaders have launched a “#StayAndFig­ht” campaign encouragin­g Hollywood powerhouse­s to put their money behind political groups challengin­g the state’s law. Film industry workers are also organizing against any potential boycott and are raising money for a challenge to the law by the ACLU.

Companies that threaten to take their business elsewhere often have the sharpest influence, said Timothy Coombs, a corporate communicat­ions expert at Texas A&M University.

“To say, ‘Oh, we’re going to stay and engage,’ that’s usually pretty hollow,” Coombs said. “To say, ‘Okay, we’re going to boycott,’ companies need to know that most of their stakeholde­rs are going to support that position.”

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