By MJ Deery, Creative Director, Story, Matter Unlimited
Welcome aboard the reproductive wayback machine no one asked for. Well most of us didn’t. A new Washington Post-ABC poll shows that Americans by a margin of 2-to-1 say Roe v Wade should be upheld. And yet, nearly half the states are poised to strike it down, forcing women and girls to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. If the Supreme Court overturns the nearly 50-year-old precedent, women in the affected states face severe risks, most notably Black women, who are three times likelier to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women according to this CDC report. It seems that rather than solve the grave health inequities plaguing our country, we’ll double down, determined to keep the most disadvantaged Americans at the bottom of our social structure.
It is a dark time in Dr. Martin Luther King’s “arc of the moral universe,” but for brand leaders unafraid to take a stand, it’s an opportunity to create significant impact. This is your moment to decide who you want to be for your employees, your consumers, and the people of this country with the most to lose. How to make your move? Here’s a two-step process for compassionate brand action in a post-Roe America.
STEP ONE: START FROM WITHIN
Given the impassioned digital debate stage, how can your brand cut through the noise and be an effective force for good? Start from within. Brands including Yelp, Amazon, Match, Apple, Levi’s, CVS, Salesforce, and Citibank have turned their focus inward to support their employees in at-risk states. Knowing that out-of-state travel isn’t feasible for everyone seeking abortion care, these companies have agreed to reimburse travel for employees. In the case of Yelp, their offer applies to both employees and spouses. In the case of Levi’s, their offer extends to part-time employees not ordinarily eligible for such benefits. And Salesforce went as far as to offer to relocate employees and their families to states that protect reproductive freedom. Eliminating the financial barriers for employees allows brands to create social impact, strengthen teams, and further their business goals at the same time. This is what brand health looks like.
STEP TWO: EXTEND OUTWARD
Actions taken on behalf of internal teams of course only impact those lucky enough to work at Citibank, Apple, Amazon, Yelp, Salesforce, etc. Step two of compassionate brand action in a post-Roe America requires brand leaders to extend goodwill outward. We know the people most affected by the courts overturning Roe v Wade are people living in poverty, people of color, and people in abusive relationships. Further, the majority of abortion patients are already moms, many of whom already struggle with insufficient support programs around postpartum and childcare. An important part of the story that the justices aren’t telling is that The United States, as reported by the New York Times, ranks near the bottom of the list of advanced countries in terms of child care investment. And forced childbirth among people in poverty has proven to tank women’s economic trajectories, as decade-long Turnaway Study study revealed. Not only does this have implications for the future of these women, but for the futures of the children they may already have. That’s why it truly is a form of economic justice for brand leaders to drive impact beyond their organization’s footprint. Many leaders are attempting to scale their support by funding organizations with boots on the ground. The Yelp Foundation is double-matching employee donations through June for distribution among the following national organizations: the Center for Reproductive Rights, NARAL Pro Choice America, and Planned Parenthood. Lyft, too, has committed $1m to Planned Parenthood. And Texas dating tech company, Bumble, started a fund last year benefitting reproductive rights of women and people across the gender spectrum who seek abortions out of state. In only two days following the leak, Reuters reported a surge of donations to abortion-rights groups from brands and indivisuals alike. In this time when it seems inevitable that the Supreme Court will reinstitute the legally forced births of the past, there is a dire need for influential brands to step into the social structure the government seems to overlook.
As our courts spark a national rise in unwanted births, there is no national rise in support for mothers: no rise in affordable housing, no rise in paid parental leave, no rise in the salaries of early childhood educators who are among America’s lowest paid. Thus the cycle of opportunity inequity makes another rotation. It’s imperative for brands looking to make a positive, compassionate mark on the world to do so now, in the tumult of the abortion debate. There exists a very real link between reproductive freedom and economic justice. The most relevant brands of today will stand for both.