As the nation faces a post-Roe v. Wade reality, some Democratic governors are playing up abortion protections in their states to try to entice companies to move there.
Touting their abortion laws as a selling point, the governors of California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Connecticut are pitching their states to potential defectors from other states that already have or will likely ban most or all abortions in response to Friday’s Supreme Court ruling.
“I’m not sure a CEO will choose a state because it’s pro- or anti-choice,” Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut said Friday in an interview with MarketWatch. “But I do know they want to be in a place where they can recruit good workers. And people, especially young people, will gravitate to a place that will protect women.”
Within the past few years, Lamont has written letters to businesses in states where abortion rights have been curtailed, and he continues to highlight the state’s values. “Do companies ask about the price of energy? Yes,” he said. “Do they ask about whether a place is welcoming for women? Absolutely.”
Adam Winkler, a professor who specializes in constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles and the author of “We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights,” said Friday that he expects businesses to face pressure to move to abortion-friendly states.
“This decision is a far-reaching one that will reverberate through American politics and American business,” Winkler said. “Businesses like women to be able to control their reproduction. One of the problems with forced motherhood is that it prevents people from controlling their labor; from being able to work when they want to work.”
After an initial draft of the Supreme Court opinion, which overturns abortion rights at the federal level and leaves the question to individual states, was leaked last month, many companies announced that they would pay travel costs for employees who needed to go to other states for abortion care.
But Winkler said he worries “that’s a mostly symbolic gesture,” adding that he thinks many women wouldn’t want to let their employers know about their abortions. Some women might find it “humiliating” to have to submit abortion-related travel expenses to their bosses, he said.
Some governors also say that companies’ offers to foot abortion-related travel expenses are not enough. That’s why they’re taking an approach that may not necessarily work immediately, according to experts, but could make a difference in some cases — or in the long run.
‘Another arrow in our quiver’
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who this month signed a legislative package that includes protections for abortion patients and providers, courted CEOs in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “New York Promises Your Employees Reproductive Freedom.”
“Some companies located in states that limit access are offering transportation for employees to get an abortion out of state,” Hochul wrote. “But there’s a better way for those CEOs to protect their employees’ essential rights. Don’t keep your operations in a state imposing these barbaric restrictions. Move to New York.”
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed more than $2 billion in new grants, tax credits and other incentives to attract companies that might want to leave states with antiabortion or anti-LGBTQ laws. It is part of a reproductive-health package, which also includes more funding for abortion-related healthcare and services, that he announced in May as his administration reacted to the leaked Supreme Court opinion.
Other governors have written letters to specific companies in states like Texas, Georgia and Ohio — which have already passed restrictive abortion laws or are expected to because of the Supreme Court decision — urging them to relocate.
“The overturning of a woman’s right to bodily autonomy — and the chilling effect this decision will have on your ability to attract and retain top female talent by being located in a state which has refused to recognize women’s reproductive freedom — cannot be ignored,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy wrote in a letter last month that was sent to nearly 60 companies, a copy of which was provided to MarketWatch.
His office wouldn’t name the companies, but spokeswoman Alyana Alfaro Post said they are in digital media and entertainment, financial services, information technology and manufacturing. In the letter, Murphy also referred to what he called his state’s competitive financial incentives for companies.
But “economic strength is about more than just value — it is about values,” Alfaro Post said this week. “Gov. Murphy encourages businesses looking to stand with their employees to look to New Jersey, a state where they can be confident that the rights of women, the LGBTQIA+ community, and voters will always be protected.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently referred to his state’s abortion protections as “another arrow in our quiver,” according to the Chicago Tribune, which reported that touting the state as a haven for women’s reproductive rights could help bolster it as a business hub. The article also mentioned that Chicago’s economic-development agency had done its part, including by taking out full-page newspaper ads in the Dallas Morning News, highlighting the Illinois city’s commitment to abortion rights, voting rights and more.
Will companies actually relocate?
Texas had already passed strict abortion restrictions last year, and a trigger law set to go into effect after the Supreme Court decision means virtually all abortions in the state will be outlawed. Texas officials have been pitching their state to companies as a new home with lower taxes, cheaper housing and fewer regulations, and have been successful in luring California companies Tesla Inc.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.
and, as of Friday, more employees from Chevron Corp.
King White, the chief executive of Site Selection Group in Dallas, Texas, says that when companies are selecting a site for their operations, they consider many factors — such as logistics, where deliveries come from, and the cost of living. Social issues “may initially be a hot topic, but long-term consequences are minimal,” he said.
He added that “we’ve had some projects in the past get slightly delayed, then the [controversy] dies down and things go back in action.”
Dennis Donovan, principal at Wadley Donovan Gutshaw Consulting, which provides site-selection services out of Bridgewater, N.J., said he has “no doubt” some companies will avoid states with restrictive abortion laws. “I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m convinced of it,” he added. “There are companies with a brand and image to protect that will more than likely avoid such states.”
But Donovan said that while antiabortion laws may cause companies to avoid certain states, he doesn’t think they would necessarily decide to relocate to a state based solely on that issue. Like White, he said there are many factors that go into deciding where companies locate their operations.
Lamont and his lieutenant governor, Susan Bysiewicz, have been trying to use abortion protections as a way to attract business for years. In 2019, when Georgia passed one of the most restrictive antiabortion laws in the nation, they wrote to Netflix Inc.
Walt Disney Co.
and AMC Networks Inc.
urging them to use Connecticut to film their productions.
The same year, they also wrote an open letter to women-owned businesses in Georgia, Alabama and Missouri after those states passed laws curbing reproductive rights, and urged them to relocate operations to Connecticut.
Though Lamont’s spokesman Anthony Anthony said those letters did not yield a direct impact, “many of the businesses who have either moved their headquarters to or expanded their footprint in Connecticut often cite many of the same reasons in the open letter to women-owned businesses in Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri as reasons for coming to Connecticut,” Anthony said.