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Corporations are outraged about Indiana's abortion ban. But there's more to the story.
On Saturday, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly released a statement opposing Indiana’s new draconian abortion ban. The company, which has over 10,000 employees in the state and its headquarters in Indianapolis, said, “Lilly recognizes that abortion is a divisive and deeply personal issue with no clear consensus among the citizens of Indiana. Despite this lack of agreement, Indiana has opted to quickly adopt one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the United States.”
The company also said that it was “concerned that this law will hinder Lilly’s — and Indiana’s — ability to attract diverse scientific, engineering and business talent from around the world” and that it has expanded its employee health care coverage to “include travel for reproductive services unavailable locally.” The statement concluded, “Given this new law, we will be forced to plan for more employment growth outside our home state.”
The statement came after the Indiana legislature passed a near-total abortion ban, SB1, on August 5. The law bans abortion from conception, and allows very limited exceptions — including “lethal fetal anomal[ies],” “prevent[ing] serious health risks of the pregnant woman,” or for “underage victims of rape or incest, but only up to 10 weeks of pregnancy.” It was signed into law by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb (R) the same day. SB1 is the first abortion ban to be enacted since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Despite Eli Lilly’s powerful statement in support of reproductive rights, the company’s actions tell a different story. Since 2021, Eli Lilly has donated $21,500 to the politicians behind SB1. These officials made it clear that they would roll back reproductive rights as soon as possible.
On June 24, Holcomb tweeted, “The Supreme Court’s decision is clear, and it is now up to the states to address this important issue. We’ll do that in short order in Indiana. I’ve already called the General Assembly back on July 6, and I expect members to take up this matter as well.”
Holcomb continued, “I have been clear in stating I am pro-life. We have an opportunity to make progress in protecting the sanctity of life, and that’s exactly what we will do.” Less than a week later, Eli Lilly donated $5,000 to Holcomb on June 30.
In April 2021, Indiana Representative Bob Heaton (R) sponsored a resolution calling on Holcomb to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to close all abortion clinics. In December 2021, Eli Lilly donated $1,000 to Heaton.
We are deeply concerned about how this law impacts our people and impedes our ability to attract and retain a diverse workforce in Indiana - concerns that we have voiced to legislators. Cummins believes that women should have the right to make reproductive healthcare decisions as a matter of gender equity, ensuring that women have the same opportunity as others to participate fully in the workforce and that our workforce is diverse. This law is contrary to this goal and we oppose it.
Since 2021, however, Cummins has donated $8,300 to 21 Indiana legislators who voted for SB1. These donations went to legislators who have made their stance on abortion abundently clear. In April 2021, for example, Indiana Senators Jeff Raatz (R) and Linda Rogers (R) co-sponsored HB1577, which limits access to abortion-inducing drugs and restricts sending information about abortions via telehealth. Cummins donated $300 to Raatz in December 2021 and $300 to Rogers in July 2021.
Donations by Eli Lilly and Cummings to the elected officials pushing to restrict abortion did not send the message that maintaining reproductive rights was a corporate priority for either company. Eli Lilly and Cummings did not respond to requests for comment.
The NCAA's conspicuous silence
While some major Indiana employers have openly objected to the state’s abortion ban, others have remained silent.
Officially, the NCAA, the Indiana-based nonprofit that oversees college sports across the country, supports abortion rights for college athletes. According to the NCAA’s “model policy for pregnant and parenting athletes,” a pregnant athlete “should have a full range of choices,” including abortion.
Since the end of Roe, however, the NCAA has kept quiet. In June, two anonymous NCAA employees told The New York Times that “NCAA leaders are waiting to see if athletes press them on abortion the same way they have with issues of mental health and racism.”
But the NCAA hasn’t always been quiet on social issues. When North Carolina passed a bill prohibiting trans people from using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity in 2016, the NCAA pulled seven championship events out of the state, costing North Carolina hundreds of millions in lost business. At the time, the organization said this decision was made “because of…actions taken by the state concerning civil rights protections.” G.P. “Bud” Peterson, the former chair of the NCAA Board of Governors, stated the decision was “consistent with the NCAA's long-standing core values of inclusion, student-athlete well-being and creating a culture of fairness.”
In 2020, the group pushed Mississippi to remove the Confederate battle emblem from its state flag after threatening to withhold championship events. “When there are issues that affect students, under my leadership I’m not going to hesitate to encourage that we do take those positions,” NCAA president Mark Emmett told The New York Times after Mississippi changed its flag. Emmett stressed that the NCAA “would not dodge political subjects if they negatively affected athlete welfare.”
The NCAA told Popular Information that it has “no comment” on Indiana’s recent abortion decision.