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Sarah Lozanova headshot

U.S. Companies Push Back Against Controversial Texas Abortion Law

The Texas “heartbeat bill” law pushed some companies to reiterate their support for abortion rights; others have launched funds to protect their employees.
By Sarah Lozanova

The Texas State Capitol in Austin.

As widely reported, a new controversial abortion law has gone into effect in Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the legislation. The law bans abortions after six weeks and does not make exceptions in the case of rape or incest. As a result, some corporations, include Bumble, Match, Lyft and Uber, have voiced displeasure with how the law will hinder women’s access to health care. Others have even created funds to help protect their employees from repercussions related to the law. Numerous companies have expressed concern about the impact the abortion ban could have on their employees. Still, many brands have so far been silent.

Ridesharing companies seek to prevent drivers from falling into legal jeopardy

Uber and Lyft are creating defense funds to protect their drivers from any legal issues associated with giving rides to women seeking abortions. The new Texas abortion law allows citizens to sue people that perform abortions or “aid and abed” in one after six weeks. Unknowingly transporting someone to a clinic could fall within that realm.

The plaintiffs do not need to have any connection to the individual seeking the abortion or the clinic itself, and they can receive $10,000 plus legal fees if they win.

In an open letter to drivers and riders, Lyft announced: “We want to be clear: Drivers are never responsible for monitoring where their riders go or why. Imagine being a driver and not knowing if you are breaking the law by giving someone a ride. Similarly, riders never have to justify, or even share, where they are going and why. Imagine being a pregnant woman trying to get to a healthcare appointment and not knowing if your driver will cancel on you for fear of breaking a law. Both are completely unacceptable.”

Lyft said it will also donate $1 million to Planned Parenthood “to ensure that transportation is never a barrier to health care access.”

Tech companies maneuver to protect abortion rights

As for “snitching” or “spying” on women exerting their reproductive rights, as of press time, at least one tech company is pushing pack. GoDaddy shut down an anti-abortion website that attempted to gather anonymous tips about Texas abortions.

Meanwhile, the leaders of Bumble, the dating app company, and Match, which owns Tinder, created funds for Texas-based employees seeking abortions out of state. Because the ban is so strict, many expect women to seek abortions in other states with less restrictive laws. Both companies are based in Texas and have female CEOs. Note, it is the leaders of these organizations, and not the companies themselves, that are creating the funds.

“Bumble is women-founded and women-led, and from day one we’ve stood up for the most vulnerable,” CEO Whitney Wolfe tweeted. “We’ll keep fighting against regressive laws like #SB8.”

Shortly after, Match CEO Shar Dubey sent a memo to employees, as reported by NPR. "I'm not speaking about this as the CEO of a company," Dubey wrote in the memo. "I'm speaking about this personally, as a mother and a woman who has fervently cared about women's rights, including the very fundamental right of choice over her body."

“I immigrated to America from India over 25 years ago and I have to say, as a Texas resident, I am shocked that I now live in a state where women’s reproductive laws are more regressive than most of the world, including India."

Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of Yelp, also issued a statement regarding the new abortion law. “The effective ban on abortions in Texas not only infringes on women’s rights to reproductive health care, but it puts their health and safety at greater risk,” he said. “We are deeply concerned about how this law will impact our employees in the state.”

The lure, and risks, of moving to states like Texas

The Texas abortion law comes at a time when many companies are migrating to Texas because of an attractive business environment, such as no income tax and a lower cost of living. In fact, Texas ranked as fourth in CNBC’s list of top states for business in 2021.

In particular, many Silicon Valley companies, including Hewlett Packard and Oracle, have relocated to Texas. Tesla is opening its new Gigafactory near Austin that is expected to begin operations in late 2021 with full-scale production in 2022.

Elon Musk made headlines when he moved earlier this year from Los Angeles to Austin, joining more than 3 million people who have moved to Texas since 2010.

Two years after a wave of anti-abortion legislation, companies are again in the spotlight

An open letter and print ad released by a group of CEOs in 2019, which included the heads of Bloomberg, DVF, Eileen Fisher, H&M and MAC, rings prescient this summer. “Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health, independence and economic stability of our employees and customers,” they wrote in representing the group Don’t Ban Equality. “Simply put, it goes against our values and is bad for business. It impairs our ability to build diverse and inclusive workforce pipelines, recruit top talent across the states, and protect the well-being of all the people who keep our businesses thriving day in and out.”

In the long run, companies that see an attractive business landscape in Texas and other states could find themselves falling behind in the ever-competitive search for talent. After the wave of state-level restrictions on abortion and reproductive services that marked the late spring of 2019, TriplePundit’s Tina Casey wrote: “In the U.S., the talent issue has come into stark relief as the workforce diversifies with more women … along with more people who identify outside of the conventional borders of gender.”

That pipeline of talent includes “career-oriented women in the workforce who are in their childbirth years all through [the] peak periods for academic progress, on-the-job training and promotion,” Casey added.

Image credit: Karson/Unsplash

Sarah Lozanova headshot

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.

Read more stories by Sarah Lozanova