Opinion: US companies support women’s reproductive choice. Canadian companies should follow suit

People march to the US Consulate in Toronto in a protest on June 29 after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v Wade abortion decision.CHRIS HELGREN/Reuters

As protesters took to the streets to protest the end of nearly 50 years of federal abortion rights in the United States, outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia, Inc. take a stand to support women.

The California-based company issued a clear statement supporting reproductive choice the same day the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established the constitutional right to abortion.

But Patagonia didn’t just offer pink PR spin. It sprang into action.

After all, the US Supreme Court had trampled on the dignity of women and girls, who make up the majority of the US population. Without a constitutional right to abortion, they instantly lost control of their bodies and their economic security.

It was an embarrassing and shocking development for an industrialized country that claims to be the leader of the free world and a champion of human rights. And that’s exactly why Patagonia’s executives didn’t hesitate to draw a line in the sand.

Unfazed by the knowledge that more than half of U.S. states are likely to restrict abortion in the coming months, Patagonia made it clear that its U.S. health plans cover abortion care, as well as travel, lodging, and food costs if workers have to travel out of their own state to get the job done. obtain service.

Patagonia didn’t stop there, though. It also raised the bar for corporate social responsibility by offering “training and bail for those peacefully protesting for reproductive justice,” along with childcare support for parents.

“Caring for employees is the responsibility of business,” Patagonia said. “That means giving workers the dignity of access to reproductive health care. It means supporting employees’ choices about whether and when to have a child.”

Live Nation Entertainment, Inc. showed a similar determination even as police in the United States clashed with pro-choice activists and journalists.

“We’re standing with women,” the entertainment giant said on Instagram. “We support community activism and will pay bail if any of our employees are arrested for peacefully protesting.”

Political backlash, damn it. Patagonia and Live Nation understand that the erosion of abortion rights will come at a high cost to all businesses and the wider US economy.

Not only will it make it harder for women, especially those who are impoverished, to join the workforce as the economy heads into recession, but there are also deep concerns that other hard-won rights — ranging from birth control to the same — sex marriage – could subsequently crumble.

Now let’s compare their corporate leadership to the laxity of Canadian business, which has largely chosen to remain silent in the face of injustice — even though many of those same companies just passed their annual performance rite of telling LGBTQ employees to pick up the courage. have to put their whole self to work.

Kudos to early movers, including Sun Life Financial Inc., Manulife Financial Corp., Bank of Nova Scotia, Nuvei Corp., Bank of Montreal, Toronto-Dominion Bank and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Their executive teams are talking about women’s rights.

But far too many other Canadian companies with substantial U.S. operations are still skeptical about improving health benefits for their U.S. employees — forget paying bail. Some of these companies are dodging press inquiries or issuing non-committal statements, even though it has been nearly two weeks since the Supreme Court ruling.

It’s humiliating.

Canadian chief executives have had months to prepare for this moment, as Politico released an exclusive publication on the Supreme Court’s draft opinion in May. Unless you were living under a rock, it was impossible to miss the story and the ensuing outrage.

That’s why it’s inexcusable that Canadian CEOs are still hesitant to take a stance on abortion rights. A long list of US companies has announced plans to expand health benefits, including travel costs for out-of-state abortions.

Canadian companies with operations in the US must also refocus their philanthropic efforts to support charities in the United States. After all, the poorest will suffer the most.

Self-interest should at the very least push lagging companies to take action. It should be clear to CEOs that abolishing federal abortion rights will be another blow to the shaky US economy – a key growth market for many Canadian companies.

“I believe that abolishing women’s right to make decisions about whether or not to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and set back decades for women,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned. the United States Senate Banking Committee in May.

You would think that promoting women’s employment would be a top priority for our business leaders, given the current labor shortage.

It’s almost as if our business leaders learned nothing from the disturbing “she-cession” that unfolded early in the COVID-19 pandemic. That experience should have taught them that women’s financial insecurity exacerbates any economic shock.

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