In key states, corporate donations go overwhelmingly to legislators that oppose abortion rights

The draconian abortion ban that became law in Texas this month may soon be spreading across the country. Substantively, the Texas law bans all abortions after six weeks — before many women know they are pregnant. But the "innovation" in Texas' abortion ban is placing a $10,000 bounty on anyone who helps a woman get an abortion after the deadline. The exclusive method of enforcement is private citizens filing lawsuits to collect the bounty. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. 

After the Supreme Court let the Texas law go into effect, citing "complex and novel antecedent procedural questions," legislators in at least seven other states — Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, South Dakota, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Ohio — are reportedly considering copying Texas' approach.

Politicians in those states receive overwhelming support from the nation's largest corporations, according to new data compiled by the Sustainable Investments Institute (Si2) at the request of Popular Information. The data reveals that, across the seven states, legislators that oppose abortion rights received $5,653,225 from Fortune 250 companies in the 2020 election cycle. Legislators in those states that support abortion rights received just $1,041,194.

The data undermines the notion that corporate donations to politicians are inconsequential because corporations give equally to "both sides." In the states where abortion rights are most at risk, corporations are providing a more than 5-to-1 financial advantage to anti-abortion legislators. 

In some states, the disparity is even starker. In Ohio, for example, Fortune 250 companies gave $1,472,988 to anti-abortion legislators in the 2020 election cycle, and just $189,293 to legislators that support abortion rights. 

Across all seven states, top corporate donors to anti-abortion legislators during the 2020 cycle  include Charter Communications ($264,555), Comcast ($252,500), and AT&T ($237,950). These figures include direct corporate giving, which is permitted in certain states, and giving from corporate PACs. Si2 has classified each legislators' views on abortion rights based on their voting record, candidate websites, and endorsements. (Just 2% of contributions went to candidates whose views were unclear or unknown.) 

Numerous legislators in Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, South Dakota, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Ohio have already sponsored abortion bans on abortion after six weeks or less. Others have explicitly supported copying Texas' law. These politicians, according to the Si2 data, received $669,540 from Fortune 250 companies in the 2020 election cycle. 

This year in Arkansas, for example, 49 state legislators sponsored "legislation banning nearly all abortions in the state." The bill, SB 6, "does not provide exceptions for those impregnated in an act of rape or incest." Abortions would only be permitted to "save the life of the mother." People who violate the ban "could face fines of up to $100,000 and up to 10 years in prison." 

"We must abolish abortion in this nation just as we abolished slavery in the 19th century -- all lives matter," the chief sponsor of the legislation, Senator Jason Rapert (R), said. The bill was signed into law by Governor Asa Hutchinson in March. 

Corporations in the Fortune 250 donated $176,850 to the sponsors of Arkansas' abortion ban in the 2020 election cycle. Top corporate donors to these sponsors in the 2020 cycle include Berkshire Hathaway ($35,500), Walmart ($19,300), ExxonMobil ($15,000), AT&T ($13,450), and UnitedHealth ($7,000).

In July, the Arkansas abortion ban was temporarily blocked by a federal judge, who called the ban "clearly unconstitutional."  But Rapert says he has "ordered a bill be filed in Arkansas to update our law to mirror the Texas SB8 bill." 

"What Texas has done is absolutely awesome," Rapert told a local television station. Rapert says his goal is to "pass this important legislation before we adjourn the legislative session." The Arkansas legislature is scheduled to return on September 29 to consider redistricting and other matters. 

When the Arkansas legislature returns and considers this legislation, legislators that oppose abortion rights will have deep financial backing from major corporations. In the 2020 cycle, Fortune 250 companies donated $402,200 to anti-abortion legislators and just $47,900 to legislators that support abortion rights. 

In key states around the country, this dynamic will be repeated. Major corporations are using their financial resources to empower ardent opponents of abortion rights. 

Kentucky considers adopting Texas abortion ban language

This year, the Kentucky legislature passed a constitutional amendment asserting that there is no right to an abortion in any circumstances. The bill, known as House Bill 91 (HB 91), allows voters in the 2022 election to decide if they support adding the following amendment to the Kentucky state constitution:

“To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

The bill denies the right to an abortion even in the case of life-threatening danger. The Courier-Journal explains that HB 91 “paves the way for a complete abortion ban.” Similarly, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky describes the amendment as “a politically-motivated attempt to make abortion completely inaccessible in Kentucky.”

State Representative Joseph Fischer (R-Campbell), who sponsored the bill, believes the “bill is necessary so that judges in Kentucky do not ‘invent’ a right to abortion within the state constitution.” Fischer received contributions from Allstate, Anthem, Duke Energy, Humana, and UnitedHealth in the 2020 election cycle.

Recently, Fischer celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision on the Texas abortion ban, calling it an “important procedural victory.” State Senator Whitney Westerfield (R-Crofton), who voted in support of HB 91, also noted that anti-abortion legislators in Kentucky “could consider adopting some of the Texas language” when they return next session.

In the 2020 election cycle, Fortune 250 companies donated $130,750 to the sponsors of HB 91, Si2’s data reveals. Top corporate donors include Charter Communications ($29,500), UPS ($22,000), American Electric Power ($11,250) UnitedHealth Group ($11,000), and Coca-Cola ($4,000).

Ohio senator celebrates Texas ban

In Ohio, State Senator Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) lauded the Texas ban “for standing up to protect unborn human babies” and said that she “will continue to fight for the right to life.”

Earlier this year, Roegner, introduced a bill with Ohio State Senator Sandra O’Brien (R-Ashtabula), that seeks to outlaw abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Known as the Human Life Protection Act, the bill is a “trigger” ban, meaning it would only go into effect if the courts reverse Roe.

“I believe that when the U.S. Supreme Court considers a challenge to Roe, they will realize that the original decision from 1973 was seriously flawed,” Roegner stated at the time of the bill’s introduction. “This is why Ohio should be proactive in passing this legislation; declaring that we respect the sanctity of life and will defend the most vulnerable among us – the unborn.”

According to the bill, all abortions, including those performed before a heartbeat, would be banned and considered a felony. There are no exceptions for rape and incest, and the only exception specified are for abortions that prevent the death and serious injury of a pregnant woman.

In the 2020 election cycle, Fortune 250 companies donated $80,854 to the sponsors and cosponsors of Ohio’s post-Roe trigger law. Top corporate donors include Anthem ($8,000), Duke Energy ($6,250), General Motors ($6,000), and Charter Communications ($4,805).

Oklahoma "is very much like Texas"

Two days after the Texas Ban went into effect, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R), who dubs himself “most pro-life governor in the country,” held a ceremonial bill signing to celebrate nine pro-life bills that he signed into law during the 2021 legislative session. 

“I promised Oklahomans I would sign every piece of pro-life legislation that came across my desk and I am proud to keep that promise,” Stitt said. In 2021, Stitt received contributions from Exxon Mobil, Marathon Petroleum, and Verizon.

One of the bills, House Bill 2441, bans abortion once a heartbeat can be detected. Doctors who perform an abortion after a heartbeat is detected could be charged with murder. Stitt originally signed the bill in April 2021 and it is slated to go into effect November 1.

The bill’s co-author, State Representative Todd Russ (R-Cordell) boasted this month that Oklahoma “is very much like Texas. We’re very pro-life. We celebrate life. We protect life.” A few weeks ago, several reproductive rights groups in Oklahoma filed a lawsuit to challenge HB 2441 and four other laws from taking effect.

According to Si2’s data, Fortune 250 companies donated $96,209 to the sponsors and cosponsors of HB 2441 in the 2020 election cycle. Marathon Petroleum ($19,500), NextEra Energy ($23,000), Phillips 66 ($8,010), and AT&T ($8,000) were among the top corporate donors.

South Carolina fights for a heartbeat bill

In February, South Carolina passed a bill similar to the Texas SB8 bill that banned abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. The bill,  S1, only permitted abortions if the “patient’s life was severely endangered” or “up to 22 weeks in cases of rape or incest.” 

“For me, it’s not about winning at the polls. It’s about protecting the sanctity of human life, and that includes unborn humans,”  said Senator Larry Grooms (R), who sponsored the bill. Governor Henry McMaster (R) signed the bill into law in February, stating that “South Carolina stands for life.”

A federal court temporarily blocked the bill, deeming it unconstitutional. Despite this, before the Texas bill passed, Grooms said, “If the Texas legislation stands a greater chance of being upheld by the Supreme Court, certainly we would move to pass legislation that would mirror what Texas did.” 

In July, McMaster filed an appeal arguing that abortion laws passed earlier this year should be allowed to stand. “We must defend South Carolina’s Fetal Heartbeat Act against every challenge at every level. As I’ve said before, the right to life is the most precious of rights and the most fragile,” McMaster said.

Fortune 250 companies donated $95,475 to the sponsors of South Carolina’s abortion ban during the 2020 election cycle. The top corporate donors to these sponsors include Duke Energy ($12,000), Centene ($10,000), Dominion Energy ($8,500), Verizon ($6,025), Boeing ($6,000), and CVS ($5,000).

Florida legislators work to mirror Texas ban

Multiple legislators have already stepped forward in Florida stating that mirroring the Texas abortion ban is something that they’re “already working on.” 

“When the Supreme Court goes out and makes a decision like this, it is clearly going to send a signal to all the states that are interested in banning abortions or making it more restrictive to have an abortion in their state,” Senate President Wilton Simpson (R) said. “It’s certainly going to make us take a look at those issues.” 

Governor Ron DeSantis (R) said he wanted to “look more significantly at the Texas approach.” While DeSantis said he welcomed pro-life legislation and supported stronger laws against abortion, he said that he didn’t know enough about the specifics in Texas to say definitively.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R) also expressed plans to push for more anti-abortion legislation now that the Texas ban has passed. “In Florida, we agree that killing an innocent human being with a beating heart is wrong,” said Sprowls. 

Fortune 250 corporations donated $36,000 during the 2020 election cycle to Florida legislators pushing for abortion laws similar to Texas. The top corporate donors to these legislators include Disney ($7,000), Comcast ($4,000), Marathon Petroleum ($3,000), Merck ($3,000), and Expedia ($2,000). 

South Dakota Governor wants “strongest pro-life laws”

On Tuesday, Governor Kristi Noem (R) issued an executive order restricting telemedicine abortions and abortion medications. 

The order mandates that abortion medication can only be prescribed after an in-person examination by a licensed doctor, and bans abortion medication from being provided “via courier, delivery, telemedicine, or mail service.” 

“Following the Supreme’s Court decision to leave the pro-life (Texas) law in place, I have directed the Unborn Child Advocate in my office to immediately review the new (Texas) law and current South Dakota laws to make sure we have the strongest pro-life laws on the books,” Noem posted in a statement on Twitter.

There was not a Texas-like abortion ban introduced in South Dakota in 2021. But such a bill appears likely when the legislature reconvenes early next year. Fortune 250 corporations donated $49,100 to anti-abortion legislators in South Dakota in the 2020 cycle. The top corporate donors include Berkshire Hathaway ($23,100), Pfizer ($5,250), Energy Transfer ($4,800), Allstate ($4,000), and AT&T ($4,000).