On Abortion, Corporate Chains Like Walgreens Fear the Republicans More than the "Woke"Roundup
tags: abortion, reproductive rights
Mary Ziegler is a law professor at the University of California, Davis. Her latest book is Roe: The History of a National Obsession.
The corporate culture wars have reached a turning point: A number of companies that once championed social justice and equity seem to be beating a hasty retreat.
Walgreens is trapped in a political firestorm. The pharmacy chain, which had sought certification so its stores could fill prescriptions for the abortion medication mifepristone, announced last week that it will not dispense the pill in the 21 states where Republican attorneys general have threatened legal action. Walgreens, which said it came to this conclusion before the threats began, won’t dispense the drug in several G.O.P.-controlled states where abortion remains legal. There was a swift backlash, with Gov. Gavin Newsom announcing that California would not renew a multimillion-dollar contract with Walgreens and others calling for a nationwide boycott. The hashtag #boycottwalgreens has taken off on Twitter.
With Congress frozen, progressives and conservatives alike have increasingly turned corporations into a new battlefield. The result is exactly what many businesses have long sought to avoid: getting sucked into the culture wars.
So far, the winners in the fight over Walgreens are abortion opponents and their Republican allies, who overcame public opinion with an activist Supreme Court and have found a new way to make the procedure harder to obtain across the country. Walgreens seems to have stumbled into the worst of all possible worlds, but the real losers are the people denied one of the few remaining ways to get an abortion — and the voters in states who voted explicitly to preserve abortion rights within their borders, only to see their preferences ignored.
For decades, corporations successfully steered clear of political issues. That began to change as growing partisanship made it much harder to avoid staking out positions on issues such as racial justice and climate change. Surveys also showed that the rising generation of young workers and consumers was not only progressive but also more willing to work for and to buy from companies willing to speak out on politically charged issues. In 2015, 379 companies and groups from various industries signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief submitted to the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage. After the murder of George Floyd, according to a survey by The Washington Post, companies like Apple and Pfizer pledged to fight racism, and the nation’s 50 largest public companies and their foundations committed nearly $50 billion to addressing racial inequality.
Little did they know that companies were turning themselves into perfect targets for post-Trump Republicans.
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