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Tina Casey headshot

After Dobbs, Pregnant People Suffer While Corporate America Parties On

By Tina Casey

The pillars of the Supreme Court of the United States

The self-professed “pro-life” movement in the U.S. has always been a sham, but the charade continued for decades until last month. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case has now empowered states to impose new restrictions on abortion, with predictable results. Popular media has already latched on to a growing list of horror stories as abortion care is denied or delayed. It is only a matter of time before corporations begin to feel the heat, especially when their own employees suffer.

Republican attorneys general in the spotlight over abortion

A fair amount of media activity has focused on corporate support for anti-abortion Republican legislators and state governors. Court observers have also pointed out that all six of the Supreme Court justices who rendered the majority decision in Dobbs were appointed by Republican presidents. Except for a few outliers, the partisan political lines over abortion have been clearly drawn.

Republican state attorneys general have not come up for similar scrutiny, but they have also played a pivotal role in recent years.

For example, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch is not exactly a household name. However, as a member of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), she was instrumental in building the legal strategy that convinced all six Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices to nullify 50 years’ worth of abortion protections.

RAGA is beginning to get more attention from the media, though. On July 24, the publication American Prospect took note of the RAGA's role in raising funds to support anti-abortion candidates, with money flowing from corporations as well as individuals and “dark money” groups.

American Prospect does not reach a particularly wide audience, but CNBC does. The multi-platform news organization claims an audience of more than 355 million people per month across the entire organization. On July 14, CNBC published an article about RAGA under the headline, “Republican attorneys general to host private retreat for corporate donors at swanky Palm Beach resort.” Almost 20 corporate and trade groups reportedly intended to participate in the event, held last weekend at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida.

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As described by CNBC, those planning to attend included lobbyists and executives from CNBC’s own corporate parent, Comcast, along with Match Group, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Anheuser-Busch, Juul Labs, Koch Industries, Lowe’s and Walmart.

“Lobbying giant Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, and the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, a business legal advocacy group, are also listed as set to attend the upcoming retreat,” observed CNBC reporter Brian Schwartz.

“Records show that, since the 2020 election cycle, almost all the corporations and trade groups listed to attend the retreat have, combined, contributed over $4 million to the Republican attorneys general group. RAGA has raised over $4 million from all donors in the first quarter of 2022 alone,” Schwartz elaborated.

“The retreat is to take place as the group seeks more donations to fend off legal attacks from Democrats seeking to protect abortion rights. A June 24 fundraising email said ‘every donation will help the Republican Attorneys General combat the Democrats’ pro-abortion agenda and stand tall for life,’” he added.

Calls by Schwartz to the invitees resulted in only seven responses on the record. Of those, only Pfizer confirmed that it was invited, but opted not to attend.

The horror stories are piling up

In contrast to the elite party atmosphere at the RAGA gathering, the media has been front-loaded all week long with stories about ordinary people — women, girls, and transgender or non-binary individuals — who are already suffering the consequences of the Dobbs ruling.

These stories have already become rich grist for the media mill, beginning with the 10-year-old girl in Ohio who was forced to travel out of state for abortion services. The case has helped raise public awareness about the frequency of pregnancy among pre-teen rape victims.

“…Ohio’s own abortion statistics and other reporting show that it’s disturbingly possible for a 10-year-old to become impregnated in the Buckeye State,” reported the Ohio Capital Journal on July 13.

Another media-attracting case surfaced on July 18. People Magazine was among the news organizations to amplify a CNN interview with Marlena Stell, a Texas businesswoman and popular YouTuber whose planned pregnancy ended when an ultrasound revealed the death of her fetus at approximately 9 weeks. Stell also shared the interview with her 79,000 Twitter followers.

Adding to Stell’s dismay at losing her pregnancy, her doctor refused to extract the fetus unless she submitted to a second invasive ultrasound. She spent two weeks carrying the dead fetus before another doctor finally consented to provide an abortion without forcing her to undergo the additional distressing and medically unnecessary procedure.

“I get so angry that I was treated this way because of laws that were passed by men who have never been pregnant and never will be," Stell said, as cited by People Magazine. "I'm frustrated, I'm angry and I feel like the women here deserve better than that.”

"It doesn't matter what side of the fence that you want to sit on, laws like this affect all women regardless of what situation you're in and it's not right," she emphasized.

The law of unintended consequences kicks in after Dobbs

Stell is far from alone as the effects of the Dobbs decision linger on. All pregnant people in her home state of Texas now face the risk of having appropriate medical care withheld, regardless of their desire to keep or terminate a pregnancy.

“In a post-Roe world, physicians in states where abortion has been banned have to weigh the legal implications of their actions, instead of making decisions based on what prevailing medical literature recommends,” the Texas Tribune reported on July 15. “In Texas, doctors can face six-figure fines and be put in jail for any disallowed abortions.” 

The Tribune cited a letter sent from the Texas Medical Association to state medical officials, charging that “hospital administrators and their legal teams are stopping doctors from providing medically appropriate care to patients with some pregnancy complications.”

At one hospital, doctors were reportedly instructed to delay care for an ectopic pregnancy, even though serious risk to the patient could be avoided with prompt treatment. At two other hospitals, doctors were reportedly told to send pregnant patients home if their water broke too early in the pregnancy, rather than promptly removing a fetus that had no chance of survival. The policy would force them to wait at home for hours, days or longer, suffering and miserable while facing the risk of infection and other complications, until their own systems eject the fetus.

The new restrictions on abortion have also quickly rippled out to have an impact on other areas of healthcare. On July 16, for example, Associated Press reporter Lindsey Tanner added lupus patients to the list of those affected by the Dobbs decision.

“A sexual assault survivor chooses sterilization so that if she is ever attacked again, she won’t be forced to give birth to a rapist’s baby. An obstetrician delays inducing a miscarriage until a woman with severe pregnancy complications seems ‘sick enough.’ A lupus patient must stop taking medication that controls her illness because it can also cause miscarriages,” Tanner wrote.

When “both sides do it” is not enough of a response

The spectacle of representatives from top U.S. firms cavorting with anti-abortion state attorneys general and other allies will eventually come home to haunt corporate leaders, and the familiar “both sides” refrain will not help them in the wake of the Dobbs decision.

In his CNN article, Brian Schwartz cited General Motors spokesperson Jeanine Ginivan, who noted that the company also supports the Democratic Attorneys General Association. 

“General Motors has been a longtime supporter of the Democratic Attorneys General Association and the Republican Attorneys General Association. GM believes that through continuous engagement with these organizations it has the best opportunity to build an understanding around issues important to GM and the auto industry,” Ginivan said, as cited by Schwartz.

That “both sides” attitude will be no comfort to thousands of GM employees in Ohio, Texas and other anti-abortion states, who find the door slammed shut when they seek medical care for an unwanted, unsafe or complicated pregnancy.

The fact is that only one side is responsible for the pain, suffering and government-sanctioned surveillance that already flow from the Dobbs ruling. U.S. business leaders need to stop sticking their heads in the sand, and start taking meaningful action to repair the damage.

Image credit: Jesse Collins via Unsplash

Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

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