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These six corporations are financing an assault on reproductive rights in six states
By the end of June, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case challenging the constitutional right to an abortion that has existed for decades. The ruling is expected to curtail or overturn the legal framework in place since Roe v. Wade, which established the right to an abortion up to the point of fetal viability, or about 23 weeks.
Such a decision would be an extraordinary reversal of reproductive rights and the level of autonomy women are afforded over their own bodies. Instead of relying on constitutional protections, women would be subject to the whims of state legislatures.
Meanwhile, opponents of abortion rights are not waiting for the Supreme Court's decision. Instead, anti-abortion legislators are seeking to pass legislation dramatically restricting access to abortion right now.
On Wednesday, Idaho Governor Brad Little (R) signed legislation banning most abortions after six weeks. The ban is enforceable through private lawsuits that can be filed against abortion providers for tens of thousands of dollars. It is modeled after Texas' law, which took effect in September 2021. The Supreme Court has allowed the Texas law to remain in effect even before it has formally overruled Roe v. Wade and its progeny.
Similar legislative efforts are underway in other states.
In Tennessee, State Representative Rebecca Alexander (R) has introduced HB 2779, a bill that would outright ban all abortions. According to Alexander, “this bill is modeled directly after the legislation passed in Texas last year.” Under the bill, private residents can sue abortion providers or anyone who helps with an abortion service.
But, unlike Texas’ law, Alexander's bill does not allow abortions during the first six weeks of pregnancy. There are also no exceptions for rape or incest. When asked during a hearing if “family members, friends, spouses, and neighbors” of a victim’s rapist could also sue, Alexander responded, “my assumption is that they could, other than the rapist.” The bill is currently under consideration in the Tennessee State House.
In Oklahoma, lawmakers have introduced three different abortion bans: HB 4327 bans abortions at any point in the pregnancy and allows private residents to sue abortion providers. The bill passed the House and is headed to the Senate. Similarly, SB 1503 bans abortions after a "heartbeat" is detected and also allows private residents to sue. The bill passed the Senate and is moving to the House. Another bill, SB 1553, prohibits abortions 30 days after a woman’s last menstrual period. The bill also passed the Senate floor and is headed to the House for consideration.
In Florida, state lawmakers have passed a bill, HB 5, banning abortions after 15 weeks. The bill provides exceptions that involve “serious risk” and fatal fetal abnormalities, but does not provide exceptions “for victims of rape, incest or human trafficking.” Governor Ron DeSantis (R) is expected to sign the bill soon. The law would go into effect July 1.
Lawmakers in West Virginia and Arizona are also advancing 15-week abortions bans. In West Virginia, HB 4004 has passed the House and is now advancing to the Senate. In Arizona, the state Senate voted to pass a 15-week abortion ban, SB 1164.
The legislators pushing these severe restrictions on reproductive rights are financially backed by some of the nation's most prominent companies — including companies that present themselves as champions of women's rights.
CVS donated $27,600 to lawmakers behind abortion bans in Arizona, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Idaho, and Florida
On March 2, in celebration of Women's History Month, CVS tweeted that it is “dedicated to achieving #GenderEquity both in our workforce and within the communities we serve.”
CVS also specifically boasts about its commitment to women’s healthcare. In 2021, CVS tweeted: “We’re working together to support the unique health needs of women at every age,” stating that the company’s “overall mission is to make care more accessible, more affordable, more personal, and more local.”
Since 2020, however, CVS has donated $27,600 to legislators pushing abortion bans across the country, including 17 co-sponsors of 15-week abortion bans in Florida and Arizona, and 17 co-sponsors of 6-week abortion bans in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Idaho.
CVS did not respond to a request for comment.
AT&T donates $42,850 to lawmakers behind abortion bans in Florida, Arizona, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Idaho
In AT&T's 2020 Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Report, CEO John Stankey said one of the company's "core values" was "gender equity and the empowerment of women." This month, AT&T's Chief Diversity & Development Officer, Corey Anthony said that AT&T "support[s] all women" and will "continue to be an ally by advocating for and honoring women."
Since 2020, AT&T has given a total of $40,100 to 33 co-sponsors of 15-week abortion bans in Florida and Arizona; and 10 co-sponsors of 6-week abortion bans in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Idaho.
AT&T also donated more than $300,000 to the co-sponsors of Texas’ abortion ban. At the time, an AT&T spokesperson told CNBC that the company “has never taken a position on the issue of abortion, and the Texas legislation was no exception.”
AT&T did not respond to a request for comment.
Merck donates $44,000 to lawmakers behind abortion bans in Florida, Tennessee, and West Virginia
In Merck’s latest Environmental, Social & Governance report, the pharmaceutical company boasts that it has been a signatory of the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles since 2009. In the report, the company also details how its “improving health systems for women today and for the long term.”
"Women and girls are at the center of our communities." Carmen Villar, Merck's Vice President for Social Business Innovation, said in 2020. "When we empower them with agency and give them the opportunity to create their own path in life, we empower not only the individual, but her entire community."
Since 2020, however, the company has donated at least $44,000 to 38 co-sponsors of 15-week abortion bans in Florida and West Virginia and one co-sponsor of a 6-week abortion ban in Tennessee.
Merck did not respond to a request for comment.
Comcast donates $124,000 to lawmakers behind Florida abortion ban
Three years ago, Comcast/NBCUniversal spoke out against a Georgia law that would have banned abortions once a fetal heartbeat was detected, normally about six weeks into pregnancy. "If any of these laws are upheld, it would strongly impact our decision-making on where we produce our content in the future,” the company said at the time.
Since 2020, however, the company has donated at least $124,000 to 38 co-sponsors of Florida’s 15-week abortion ban.
Comcast/NBCUniversal did not respond to a request for comment.
UnitedHealth donates $23,500 to lawmakers behind abortion bans in Idaho, Arizona, and Oklahoma
UnitedHealth says March, Women's History Month, is "a time for appreciation and advocacy." The company pledged to "encourage and empower the women in our workplace and our lives and promote equality for all women."
Since 2020, UnitedHealth donated at least $23,500 to state legislators pushing abortion bans, including eight co-sponsors of a 15-week abortion ban in Arizona, and 12 co-sponsors of 6-week abortion bans in Idaho and Oklahoma.
UnitedHealth did not respond to a request for comment.
Anheuser-Busch donates $15,000 to lawmakers behind abortion ban in Idaho
On International Women’s Day earlier this month, Anheuser-Busch said it was “celebrating the accomplishments of women in the beer industry as we look toward a more equitable future for all.” The company also said it was “proud to celebrate and support women every day.”
Since 2020, Anheuser-Busch donated $15,000 to 34 co-sponsors of Idaho’s 6-week abortion ban.
Anheuser-Busch did not respond to a request for comment.
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