Socially responsible investors step up pushback against abortion rights restrictions

Investors and non-profits will continue to engage and push companies to support employees’ rights to abortions.

US-based investors and nonprofits will continue to engage and push companies to support employees’ rights to abortions following a leaked draft Supreme Court opinion which suggested the landmark Roe v Wade could be repealed. 

Abortion rights have moved up the agenda for socially responsible investors over the past year as Republican lawmakers in states across the country have passed or proposed legislation that would severely restrict women’s ability to access legal terminations.

Adasina Social Capital has divested companies that donate disproportionately to anti-choice politicians, and companies that influence policy negatively for women and reproductive freedoms. The asset manager is also a member of an investors and advocacy coalition, Don’t Ban Equality, that is tracking corporate response to the potential withdrawal of abortion rights.

Responding to the leaked opinion, Rachel J Robasciotti, founder and CEO of Adasina, told Responsible Investor: “The additional reductions in access to safe and legal abortion will directly harm countless women and birthing people across the country – especially those living in poverty – a group who are disproportionately people of colour. Access to reproductive healthcare, including safe and legal abortion, is an issue of gender justice, economic justice, and racial justice. And the right to bodily autonomy is one of basic human dignity.” 

She continued: “Adasina stands in solidarity with the social justice organisations that are fighting for everyone’s right to safe and legal abortion. If the draft proves to be the opinion of the majority of the Courts, we would hope that the justices heed the widespread public outcry and issue a ruling that strongly supports safe and legal abortion.” 

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that supports sexual and reproductive rights worldwide, abortion restrictions have passed at least one chamber in 11 states and been enacted in nine. In total, legislation to restrict abortion has been introduced in 42 states. In some states, trigger legislation has been introduced or passed that will result in an automatic ban on abortion if Roe v Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court. Abortion bans still in place from before the Roe v Wade verdict which will also once again be enforceable.

Sonia Kowal, president at Zevin Asset Management, told Responsible Investor: “[If Roe v Wade is overturned it] would be an absolute disaster for women in the US. All women depend on the right to not be forced into unwanted motherhood.” 

Zevin will continue to press companies to “explain how they promote equity and diversity but then don’t act swiftly to provide reproductive coverage access to employees”, Kowal said.

She also commended companies such as Citi that have extended their support for their female employees by adding benefits that cover travel to states that do allow abortions for example. “Companies don’t want to have their female employees risking their health and wellbeing again if this right is withdrawn,” she added.

Apple, Yelp, and Amazon have also been increasingly expanding support for workers seeking abortion. 

Kowal also flagged the importance of “understanding which companies have supported politicians who have pushed for stricter abortion access”.

“Are there any companies actively lobbying for or against stricter abortion access, either directly or through their trade associations or 501c4 donations?” she asked. 

Trillium Asset Management also called on companies this week to support gender equity and the right to abortion by opposing anti-abortion laws, stopping political contributions to anti-choice politicians, and providing abortion coverage to employees.

The investor had already in January put forward a shareholder proposal to TJX – in coordination with Rhia Ventures – asking the US retailer to report on any potential risks and costs to the company caused by enacted or proposed state policies severely restricting reproductive rights, and detailing any strategies that the company may deploy to minimize or mitigate these risks.

Rhia Ventures previously spearheaded a letter to Arizona legislators, which Trillium signed, when it made moves to limit access to abortions.  

Clean Yield Asset Management also has a proposal going to vote at Walmart about risks related to the patchwork of state laws, as part of a coordinated initiative by impact-first venture capital funds.

Meanwhile Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow, said the nonprofit will “continue the work of benefit equity by helping companies reduce risk to employees, caused by the repeal of these basic rights, by encouraging them to follow in the footsteps of Amazon, Apple, Citigroup, Levi Strauss, Match, Salesforce, and Yelp to provide paid time off, travel and cover other costs to make sure all employees have the same basic rights”.