Full Court Press

See our previous guidance on responding to the reversal of Roe v. Wade here and here. And find the results of our survey of engaged voters’ reactions to the initial opinion leak here.

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Friday’s ruling removing nationwide protection for abortion rights clearly shows the Court’s new 6-3 conservative supermajority is willing to mandate changes on hot-button cultural and social issues that are out of step with national public opinion. This judicial term saw other dramatic effects of the new conservative cohort, which has shown itself to be pro-business and anti-regulation. 

High-profile cases this term on abortion, gun rights and religious expression likely precede more such rulings with the capacity to deepen cultural and political divides. Although these issues are rarely central to a company’s business, there may be pressure from employees, customers and government interlocutors to respond.

The Court’s makeup appears stable. Unless a justice retires unexpectedly or dies, companies should expect a deeply conservative majority to hold sway on most cases for years to come. 

Chief Justice Roberts appears highly concerned about the Court’s reputation and integrity in its handling of the Dobbs abortion case, as was evident in his appeals to judicial restraint in his concurrence. 

President Biden criticized the ruling as extreme and called on Congress to codify protections formerly guaranteed under Roe. The House has passed such legislation, but it failed in the Senate in May. Biden said it is up to voters to elect leaders who will act to protect abortion. 

One day earlier, the Court ruled a New York law placed too many limits on the right to carry a concealed handgun, making it harder for states or localities to regulate the practice. The decision comes amid the first significant gun control legislation to come out of Congress in more than two decades.

The Public Square

Twitter conversation Friday erupted in response to the Dobbs decision, with 2.7 million tweets about the decision between 10am ET and 5pm ET alone. Our Research and Insights team dug into Twitter and polling data to find out what companies should be looking out for.

  • Many users discussed companies speaking out and taking action. They urge more companies to cover abortion care and protect women’s data privacy. 
  • Polling data among voters shows more mixed views on whether companies have a responsibility to engage publicly. Voters are more supportive of companies taking action to support their own employees than companies speaking out and taking a stand on abortion rights.
  • FGS Global’s research among engaged and news-attentive voters found more support company engagement than push back on it. A company’s silence may generate ill will if called out.
  • People are most interested in seeing companies help employees relocate, which reflects anxieties about living in a state without abortion access. 31% of registered voters, 42% of voters aged 18-25 and 45% of voters with an advanced degree say a state that bans abortion is less desirable to live in.

Companies across industries have announced their benefits will cover employee travel expenses for abortion to varying extents (or reiterate that they already did), though many acknowledge legal hurdles remain. 

The State Of Pride

Last week, FGS Global was treated to a panel discussion with some of the country’s leading LGBTQ+ advocates: Lambda Legal’s Shedrick (Rick) Davis, American Unity Fund’s Tyler Deaton, Equality North Carolina’s Kendra Johnson and Equality Arizona’s Michael Soto. Moderated by our own Jeff McAndrews, the panel discussed the current state and future outlook of LGBTQ+ rights in the United States. 

Their key takeaways: 

  • While much progress has been made, LGBTQ+ Americans are still not fully protected from discrimination in 29 States. 
  • 2022 is on track to set a record for the number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in state legislatures.
  • We need federal legislation and comprehensive protections for LGBTQ+ people.
  • Overcoming these hurdles is going to take a bipartisan effort. 

What can companies do about it?

  • Corporations wield the power to pull people together. 
  • Brands need to find some significant ways to tear down the false dichotomy between religion and sexuality constructed by people on both ends of the spectrum. One way to do this is by supporting both LGBTQ+ and faith-based ERGs as well as facilitating more conversations between the two.   
  • Join the effort to advocate for federal protections. 
  • Sign onto amicus briefs and publicize your support. This is a powerful way to promote the issues at hand while signaling support.
  • Put in work behind the scenes if you’re going to publicly celebrate Pride. In the long run, it’s going to impact the bottom line if you’re not fighting to ensure all of your workforce can thrive.

Supreme Uncertainty

With 13 SCOTUS rulings to go and the Dobbs decision still outstanding, we’re devoting all of Capital in Context today to helping you understand the existing conversation, how companies are reacting and what comes next. And if you missed our previous guidance on how organizations should prepare to respond to the ruling, read it here and here.

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The expected Supreme Court decision on abortion would have complex legal, political, operational and reputational implications for companies, complicated by the wide range of policies across the 28 states that already have or plan to ban or tightly restrict abortions. We forecast a period of upheaval, as states adopt diverse – and opposing – approaches to reproductive healthcare access.

Although the final opinion is likely to differ from Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft, the most likely outcome remains that the Court will overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states the power to regulate abortion— as it was almost 50 years ago.

At this point, there are currently three categories of state legislation expected:

  • Existing laws or new bills to restrict abortion, as well as moves in some local communities to do the opposite and decriminalize it. Several states have already enacted “trigger laws” that would automatically impose abortion restrictions pending Roe’s fall. There also may be additional legislation at the federal level. 
  • Bills restricting the sale of pharmaceuticals used in medical abortions.
  • Bills that would criminalize actions by corporate entities to allow women to travel to receive abortion-related services.

SCOTUS could stop short of overturning Roe but still render it largely moot (some Court watchers think Chief Justice Roberts may have circulated a rival opinion less extreme than Alito’s). The pace of decisions is markedly slower than usual this year, leading to speculation that the justices are more divided and less collegial than in the past. 

The legal and business landscape on this issue will continue to shift after the decision, especially as the full consequences of the ruling become clear. The shifting mosaic of different rules and standards may not fully resolve itself for months or even years.

Regardless of the high court’s ruling, advocates on both sides of the issue will engage in lengthy litigation that will likely establish a further patchwork of legal standards.

The Company Line

Imminent high-profile rulings on abortion, gun rights and religious expression are likely to deepen cultural and political divides. Although these issues are rarely central to a company’s business, employees, customers and government interlocutors may pressure a company to respond. 

Views are complicated, but polling consistently shows most in this country do not want Roe to be overturned and are uneasy with the government making individual healthcare decisions. The most engaged voters are divided.

Here’s what we’ve seen from companies in response to Texas SB8 and the leaked draft opinion in Dobbs:

  • Companies have started updating or emphasizing benefits for their employees to ensure access to care. Since May 3, over 20 companies including Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks have announced or reiterated their health care policies would cover travel to other states for abortion access and other reproductive care. They join companies like Uber, Lyft and Apple who made similar commitments following the May 2021 enactment of Texas SB8.
  • While most of corporate America has yet to acknowledge the issue publicly, some pushback is emerging. As of this week, over 60 companies like Lyft, Levi Strauss and Ben & Jerry’s signed on to a statement from “Don’t Ban Equality” – a coalition created in 2019 and supported by the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights – stating that reversing Roe v. Wade would be against their company values.
  • Companies are experiencing growing scrutiny in the media over their willingness to take a position. Media outlets have reported on corporate America’s relative silence on abortion in contrast to their outspoken stances on issues such as racial justice, voting rights and marriage equality. Fast Company and Yahoo Finance have written about their efforts to contact corporate leaders to find out their positions on abortion and reported few have been willing to comment. Yahoo Finance particularly focused on companies with women CEOs, noting few were willing to speak up. The New York Times has suggested corporate America may be forced to make a statement due to pressure from employees, especially in a tight labor market.
  • Companies are increasingly facing pressure from shareholders to protect access to abortion. Walmart, Lowe’s and TJX have all faced votes on proxy proposals aimed at ensuring the companies enact internal policies that give workers the ability to obtain abortions. While the votes all failed, a significant minority of TJX shareholders (30.2%) and Lowe’s shareholders (32%) voted in favor.

The Digital Divide

Our Research and Insights team analyzed recent tweets to take the public temperature on the upcoming Dobbs ruling. Here’s what they found:

  • Twitter conversation peaked with the Supreme Court draft leak, but recent engagement has been limited as other issues compete for attention.
  • Conversation has been most active among right-leaning users over the past week as people share accounts of violent protests.
  • As expected, the conversation is divisive. Narratives driven by the right focus on reports of violent protesters:
    • Safety of Supreme Court Justices: Users on the right share their concerns about the justices’ safety – especially Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. People share stories of disruptive protests outside their homes, threats of violence against Kavanaugh and protesters showing up to Barrett’s church. 
    • Attacks on pro-life centers: Conservative users critcize the left based on reports of attacks on pro-life women’s health centers. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene consistently shares information about these centers and expresses frustration they aren’t given the same protection as abortion centers.
  • Narratives driven by the left are more advocacy-oriented, with users calling for the protection of reproductive rights and other freedoms the Court could overturn next:
    • Dismantling Rights: Users on the left, including Vice President Kamala Harris, continue to share their concerns that overturning Roe v. Wade could lead to other freedoms being overturned – especially same-sex marriage and interracial marriage.
    • Executive Order: News outlets and users share reports President Biden could issue an executive order to protect access to an abortion if the Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
    • Local Laws: Liberal voters urge state governments to enact laws quickly to protect people’s right to an abortion in their state. Some local lawmakers share promises to continue fighting for abortion access at the local level even if the Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
    • Gun Laws: Users on the left are highly critical of Republicans who talk about the value of life and tout pro-life values but refuse to enact any gun laws to prevent future school shootings.

Tell Them What You Really Think

We here at Capital In Context love a good op-ed. That’s why we’re so fond of sharing frequent reminders about how (and how not) to write a well thought-out opinion article. 

Thankfully, The Washington Post recently covered the bases with this list of tips. We’ve highlighted some of our favorites below: 

  • Keep it focused. Target 750 to 800 words. Make sure your thesis is in the first couple of paragraphs. Burying the point is probably the biggest mistake we see clients making in first drafts. 
  • Consider visual aids. Op-eds can incorporate charts, photos, audio or even comics.
  • Brevity is key – especially when you’re making a sophisticated point. “The more complex the thought, the shorter the sentence should be,” the Post advises.
  • Question questions. Which is to say, when raising a question, ask yourself what point you’re trying to make. As the Post asks, “Is the question a lazy device for making an insinuation without really owning it?”
  • Use numbers (in moderation). Stats can bolster an argument and help make your point. But use them sparingly—it’s an op-ed, not a math problem. And you risk alienating readers.
  • Explain your reasoning. Points that seem obvious to you might not be so clear to the reader. “Remember, you’ve already thought your argument through; readers haven’t.”  
  • No jargon. It doesn’t make you sound smarter, and it turns readers off.