Digital payments are the default for millions of women of childbearing age. So what will their credit and debit card issuers and financial app providers do when prosecutors seek their transaction data during abortion investigations?
It’s a hypothetical question that’s almost certainly an inevitable one in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade last week. Now that abortion is illegal in several states, criminal investigators will soon begin their hunt for evidence to prosecute those they say violated the law.
Medical records are likely to be the most definitive proof of what now is a crime, but officials who cannot get those may look for evidence elsewhere. The payment trail is likely to be a high priority.
HIPAA — which governs the privacy of a patient’s health records — permits medical and billing records to be released in response to a warrant or subpoena.
“There is a very broad exception to the HIPAA protections for law enforcement,” said Marcy Wilder, a partner and co-head of the global privacy and cybersecurity practice at Hogan Lovells, a law firm. But Ms. Wilder added that the information shared with law enforcement officials could not be overly broad or unrelated to the request. “That is why it matters how companies and health plans are interpreting this.”
Card issuers and networks like Visa and Mastercard generally do not have itemized lists of everything that people pay for when they shop for prescription drugs or other medications online, or when they purchase services at health care providers. But evidence of patronage of, say, a pharmacy that sells only abortion pills could give someone away.
a new state law authorizes residents to file lawsuits against anyone who helped facilitate an abortion.
“With the ruling only coming down late last week, it’s premature to understand the full impact at the state level,” Brad Russell, a USAA spokesman, said via email. “However, USAA will always comply with all applicable laws.”
American Airlines Credit Union, Bank of America, Capital One, Discover, Goldman Sachs, Prosperity Bank USA, Navy Federal Credit Union, US Bank, University of Wisconsin Credit Union, Wells Fargo and Western Union did not return at least two messages seeking comment.
American Express, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo have all announced their intentions to reimburse employees for expenses if they travel to other states for abortions. So far, none have commented about how they would respond to a subpoena seeking the transaction records of the very employees who would be eligible for employer reimbursement.
Amie Stepanovich, vice president of U.S. policy at the Future of Privacy Forum, a nonprofit focused on data privacy and protection, said warrants and subpoenas can be accompanied by gag orders, which can prevent companies from even alerting their customers that they’re being investigated.
“They can choose to battle the use of gag orders in court,” she said. “Sometimes they win, sometimes they don’t.”
In other instances, prosecutors may not say exactly what they’re investigating when they ask for transaction records. In that case, it’s up to the financial institution to request more information or try to figure it out on its own.
Paying for abortion services with cash is one possible way to avoid detection, even if it isn’t possible for people ordering pills online. Many abortion funds pay on behalf of people who need financial help.
But cash and electronic transfers of money are not entirely foolproof.
“Even if you are paying with cash, the amount of residual information that can be used to reveal health status and pregnancy status is fairly significant,” said Ms. Stepanovich, referring to potential bread crumbs such as the use of a retailer’s loyalty program or location tracking on a mobile phone when making a cash purchase.
In some cases, users may inadvertently give up sensitive information themselves through apps that track and share their financial behavior.
“The purchase of a pregnancy test on an app where financial history is public is probably the biggest red flag,” Ms. Stepanovich said.
Other advocates mentioned the possibility of using prepaid cards in fixed amounts, like the kinds that people can buy off a rack in a drugstore. Cryptocurrency, they added, usually does leave enough of a trail that achieving anonymity is challenging.
One thing that every expert emphasized is the lack of certainty. But there is an emerging gut feeling that corporations will be in the spotlight at least as much as judges.
“Now, these payment companies are going to be front and center in the fight,” Ms. Caraballo said.
There is no clear blueprint for corporate engagement on abortion. After numerous companies came forward to announce that they would cover travel expenses for their employees to get abortions, executives have had to move swiftly to both sort out the mechanics of those policies and explain them to a work force concerned about confidentiality and safety.
Few companies have commented directly on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ended nearly 50 years of federal abortion rights. Far more have responded by expanding their health care policies to cover travel and other expenses for employees who can’t get abortions close to home, now that the procedure is banned in at least eight states with other bans set to soon take effect. About half the country gets its health care coverage from employers, and the wave of new employer commitments has raised concerns from some workers about privacy.
“It’s a doomsday scenario if individuals have to bring their health care choices to their employers,” said Dina Fierro, a global vice president at the cosmetics company Nars, echoing a concern that many workers have expressed on social media in recent days.
Popular Information. Match Group declined to comment.
tweet: “I believe CEOs have a responsibility to take care of their employees — no matter what.”
June 27 (Reuters) – A growing number of large U.S. companies have said they will cover travel costs for employees who must leave their home states to get abortions, but these new policies could expose businesses to lawsuits and even potential criminal liability, legal experts said.
Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Lyft Inc (LYFT.O), Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) were among companies that announced plans to provide those benefits through their health insurance plans in anticipation of Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that had legalized abortion nationwide. read more
Within an hour of the decision being released, Conde Nast Chief Executive Roger Lynch sent a memo to staff announcing a travel reimbursement policy and calling the court’s ruling “a crushing blow to reproductive rights.” Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) unveiled a similar policy on Friday, telling employees that it recognizes the impact of the abortion ruling but remains committed to providing comprehensive access to quality healthcare, according to a spokesman. read more
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Health insurer Cigna Corp (CI.N), Paypal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O), Alaska Airlines Inc (DKS.N) also announced reimbursement policies on Friday.
Abortion restrictions that were already on the books in 13 states went into effect as a result of Friday’s ruling and at least a dozen other Republican-led states are expected to ban abortion.
The court’s decision, driven by its conservative majority, upheld a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. Meanwhile, some Democratic-led states are moving to bolster access to abortion.
Companies will have to navigate that patchwork of state laws and are likely to draw the ire of anti-abortion groups and Republican-led states if they adopt policies supportive of employees having abortions.
State lawmakers in Texas have already threatened Citigroup Inc (C.N) and Lyft, which had earlier announced travel reimbursement policies, with legal repercussions. A group of Republican lawmakers in a letter last month to Lyft Chief Executive Logan Green said Texas “will take swift and decisive action” if the ride-hailing company implements the policy.
The legislators also outlined a series of abortion-related proposals, including a bill that would bar companies from doing business in Texas if they pay for residents of the state to receive abortions elsewhere.
It is likely only a matter of time before companies face lawsuits from states or anti-abortion campaigners claiming that abortion-related payments violate state bans on facilitating or aiding and abetting abortions, according to Robin Fretwell Wilson, a law professor at the University of Illinois and expert on healthcare law.
“If you can sue me as a person for carrying your daughter across state lines, you can sue Amazon for paying for it,” Wilson said.
Amazon, Citigroup and other companies that have announced reimbursement policies did not respond to requests for comment. A Lyft spokesperson said: “We believe access to healthcare is essential and transportation should never be a barrier to that access.”
For many large companies that fund their own health plans, the federal law regulating employee benefits will provide crucial cover in civil lawsuits over their reimbursement policies, several lawyers and other legal experts said.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) prohibits states from adopting requirements that “relate to” employer-sponsored health plans. Courts have for decades interpreted that language to bar state laws that dictate what health plans can and cannot cover.
ERISA regulates benefit plans that are funded directly by employers, known as self-insured plans. In 2021, 64% of U.S. workers with employer-sponsored health insurance were covered by self-insured plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Any company sued over an abortion travel reimbursement requirement will likely cite ERISA as a defense, according to Katy Johnson, senior counsel for health policy at the American Benefits Council trade group. And that will be a strong argument, she said, particularly for businesses with general reimbursement policies for necessary medical-related travel rather than those that single out abortion.
Johnson said reimbursements for other kinds of medical-related travel, such as visits to hospitals designated “centers of excellence,” are already common even though policies related to abortion are still relatively rare.
“While this may seem new, it’s not in the general sense and the law already tells us how to handle it,” Johnson said.
The argument has its limits. Fully-insured health plans, in which employers purchase coverage through a commercial insurer, cover about one-third of workers with insurance and are regulated by state law and not ERISA.
Most small and medium-sized U.S. businesses have fully-insured plans and could not argue that ERISA prevents states from limiting abortion coverage.
And, ERISA cannot prevent states from enforcing criminal laws, such as those in several states that make it a crime to aid and abet abortion. So employers who adopt reimbursement policies are vulnerable to criminal charges from state and local prosecutors.
But since most criminal abortion laws have not been enforced in decades, since Roe was decided, it is unclear whether officials would attempt to prosecute companies, according to Danita Merlau, a Chicago-based lawyer who advises companies on benefits issues.
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Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Grant McCool and Bill Berkrot
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June 26 (Reuters) – The largest U.S. law firms did not take a public stance following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade on Friday, diverging from the approach of some major companies that have made statements on the closely watched abortion case.
The high court’s 6-3 Dobbs decision upheld a Republican-backed Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Many states are expected to further restrict or ban abortions following the ruling.
Reuters on Friday asked more than 30 U.S. law firms, including the 20 largest by total number of lawyers, for comments on the Dobbs ruling and whether they would cover travel costs for employees seeking an abortion.
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The vast majority did not respond by Saturday afternoon, and only two, Ropes & Gray and Morrison & Foerster, said they would implement such a travel policy.
Morrison & Foerster, with nearly 1,000 attorneys, was the only large firm to issue a public statement by Saturday afternoon.
The firm’s chair, Larren Nashelsky, said Morrison & Foerster would “redouble our efforts to protect abortion and other reproductive rights.”
The Dobbs decision has been expected since a draft opinion was leaked in May.
Several major U.S. corporations, including The Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) and Meta Platforms (META.O) said on Friday they will cover travel costs for employees seeking abortions. read more
Industry experts say law firms could speak out on Dobbs in the future if employees and clients push them to take a public stance. For now, firm leaders appear to be carefully weighing the advantages and disadvantages of commenting, including the possibility of alienating clients, experts said.
“This is a tightrope to walk for firms,” said Kent Zimmermann, a law firm consultant with the Zeughauser Group. “They have a diversity of views among their talent and clients.”
Some firms have issued internal communications to employees about the decision. Ropes & Gray Chair Julie Jones said in an internal memo viewed by Reuters that the firm will hold several community gatherings to discuss the ruling and offer “comfort.”
“As a leader of Ropes & Gray, I am concerned about the effect of this decision on our community,” Jones wrote, while acknowledging that her memo may cause “offense to portions of our community.”
A Ropes & Gray spokesperson told Reuters Friday that employees enrolled in its medical plan are eligible for financial assistance to travel out of state for an abortion.
Another large U.S. law firm, Steptoe & Johnson, offered its U.S. workforce the day off on Friday, a spokesperson confirmed. The spokesperson did not immediately respond to further requests for comment.
Despite a dearth of public statements, a number of law firms publicly signaled ahead of the ruling that they planned to provide free legal support to women seeking abortions if Roe was overturned.
Both the New York Attorney General Leticia James and the San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu, with the Bar Association of San Francisco, have convened pro bono initiatives that rely on law firm volunteers. Paul Weiss, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and O’Melveny & Myers are among the participants.
Paul Weiss Chair Brad Karp called the Dobbs decision a “crushing loss” in an internal message to the firm on Friday provided to Reuters. Paul Weiss and O’Melveny, which both represented Jackson Women’s Health Organization, respondents in the Dobbs case, deferred comment on the ruling to their co-counsel, the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The center said in a statement that the court had “hit a new low by taking away – for the first time ever – a constitutionally guaranteed personal liberty.”
Gibson Dunn did not respond to request for comment.
Robert Kamins, a consultant with Vertex Advisors who works with law firms, said firms will be “very cautious” about taking early positions on the ruling.
“They have to make sure that they are being thoughtful about it,” he said. “What is the business impact? What is the client impact? What is the recruiting impact? There are lots of things to think about.”
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Reporting by Karen Sloan in Sacramento, California, and Jacqueline Thomsen in Swampscott, Massachusetts; Additional reporting by Mike Scarcella in Silver Spring, Maryland; Editing by Rebekah Mintzer, Noeleen Walder and Leslie Adler
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June 29 (Reuters) – A growing number of companies, including JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) are updating or changing their health insurance policies to offer travel benefits to U.S. employees who may need to access out of state abortion services.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday took the dramatic step of overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognized a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and legalized it nationwide. read more
Below is a list of companies that have said they will cover or reimburse U.S. employees who need to travel to receive medical care, including abortion, if access where workers live is restricted.
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Airbnb Inc (ABNB.O)
Alaska Air Group Inc (ALK.N) read more
Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O)
Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) read more
American Express Co (AXP.N)
Apollo Global Management Inc (APO.N) read more
Apple Inc (AAPL.O)
AT&T Inc (T.N)
Bank of America Corp (BAC.N)
Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO)
Blackstone Inc (BX.N) read more
Block Inc (SQ.N)
Bumble Inc (BMBL.O) read more
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO)
Carlyle Group Inc (CG.O) read more
Citigroup Inc (C.N) read more
CVS Health Corp (CVS.N)
Deutsche Bank AG read more
Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS.N) read more
DoorDash Inc (DASH.N)
Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) read more
Intel Corp (INTC.O)
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) read more
JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) read more
Kroger Co (KR.N)
Levi Strauss & Co (LEVI.N) read more
Lyft Inc (LYFT.O) read more
Macy’s Inc (M.N)
Mastercard Inc (MA.N) read more
Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) read more
Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) read more
Morgan Stanley (MS.N) read more
Netflix Inc (NFLX.O)
Nordstrom Inc (JWN.N)
OKCupid (MTCH.O) read more
PayPal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O)
Pinterest Inc (PINS.N)
Proctor and Gamble Co(PG.N)
Ralph Lauren Corp (RL.N)
Rivian Automotive Inc(RIVN.O)
Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) read more
Target Corp (TGT.N)
Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) read more
TPG Inc (TPG.O) read more
Uber Technologies Inc (UBER.N)
Ulta Beauty Inc (ULTA.O)
Unilever PLC (ULVR.L)
United Talent Agency read more
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O)
Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) read more
Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) read more
Yelp Inc (YELP.N) read more
Zillow Group Inc (ZG.O)
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Reporting by Doyinsola Oladipo and Akash Sriram; Additional reporting by Chavi Mehta, Manas Mishra and Nichola Saminather; Editing by Anna Driver, Rosalba O’Brien, Bill Berkrot, Daniel Wallis, William Maclean
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Abortion was already illegal in multiple US states on Saturday, with bans introduced within hours of Roe v Wade being overturned, as cities erupted in protest at the landmark ruling.
It came after the US supreme court on Friday abolished the constitutional right to abortion, more than 50 years after it was established, leaving individual states to decide. It is ultimately expected to lead to abortion bans in about half of the states.
According to a website affiliated with Planned Parenthood, the US sexual healthcare organisation, it remains legal to travel out of state to get an abortion.
Among the first states to outlaw almost all abortions was Utah where, after the ruling, its abortion ban had already come into effect on Friday night.
Utah’s Republican state senator, Daniel McCay, who sponsored the state’s “trigger law”, said it would be wrong for Utah women to seek abortions in neighbouring states but he had no immediate plans to stop them from doing so.
Ohio’s ban on most abortions at the first detectable foetal heartbeat – known as the “heartbeat bill” – also came into effect. The 2019 law has been on hold for nearly three years, but after the supreme court’s announcement on Friday, a federal judge agreed to remove a federal court injunction blocking it hours later.
Alabama quickly stopped abortions as its 2019 state abortion ban took effect – making it a crime to perform an abortion at any state of pregnancy, including for rape and incest victims. The only exception is for the sake of the mother’s health.
Soon after the announcement, Arkansas’s health department told the state’s two abortion providers that abortions were now banned under a law banning all abortions except to protect the mother’s life in a medical emergency.
What state laws could go into effect?
Facilities were advised that performing an abortion is now a violation of the law, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
West Virginia’s only abortion clinic stopped performing abortions on Friday. The state has a law that criminalises providing abortions, carrying a three to 10 year prison sentence, but it is unclear how it will proceed on enforcement after the supreme court ruling.
“Roe has never been enough, but in states like West Virginia, it was the only thing protecting abortion access,” said Katie Quinonez, the executive director of Women’s Health Centre of West Virginia.
Now, she said, people from the state seeking abortions would be forced to travel hundreds, or even thousands, of miles to do so and marginalised communities would be worst affected.
In Missouri, the attorney general, Eric Schmitt, said he was acting immediately to enforce a state law banning abortion except in “cases of medical emergency”. It follows a 2019 law that included a trigger provision bringing it into effect after Roe v Wade was overturned.
In some states, including Arizona and Texas, abortion clinics temporarily stopped providing abortions while they assessed the legality of continuing.
Meanwhile, multiple states vowed to protect the right to abortion. In Washington DC, the mayor, Muriel Bowser, responded by declaring it “a pro-choice city”, but warned that as a district, not a state, it was now vulnerable because Congress had oversight of it.
The Democratic governors of California, Washington and Oregon have all vowed to protect abortion rights and help women who travel to the west coast from other states for abortions.
Anticipating an influx of people seeking abortions, they issued a “multi-state commitment” and said they would collaborate to defend patients and medical professionals providing abortions and pledged to “protect against judicial and local law enforcement cooperation with out-of-state investigations, inquiries, and arrests” into abortions in their states.
The Massachusetts Republican governor, Charlie Baker, signed an executive order to protect access to reproductive healthcare.
In North Carolina, its Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, also vowed to protect abortion rights, despite the legislature being controlled by Republicans. In response to the ruling, he put out a fundraising appeal on Friday for assistance in preventing Republicans from getting veto-proof majorities in the state in November.
In New Mexico, where abortion is readily available, the top public prosecutor and Democratic nominee for attorney general, Raúl Torrez, urged politicians to take more action to protect women’s access to abortions, including for those from other states.
When Barbara Schwartz looks back at her younger days working as a Broadway stagehand, she remembers the electricity of it: the harried dancers slipping into their costumes backstage, the props people shoving past with flashlights between their teeth.
She was able to throw herself into that high-pressure career, she said, because of a choice she made in 1976. She got an abortion at a clinic she found in the Yellow Pages. It was three years after the Roe v. Wade ruling established the constitutional right to an abortion; to Ms. Schwartz, the world seemed full of new professional opportunities for women. She got a credit card in her own name, became one of the first women to make it into the local stagehand union and joined the throngs backstage at shows including “Cats” and “Miss Saigon.”
Ms. Schwartz, 69, is now retired. She is spending her retirement years escorting women to the doors of an abortion clinic on the border of Virginia and Tennessee. She was drawn to this volunteer work, she said, because to her, the promise from her 20s has dimmed — the result of laws that have chipped away at abortion access, with a leaked draft Supreme Court ruling this past week revealing that Roe is likely to be overturned.
“This is my giant pay it forward,” Ms. Schwartz said.
That is how Ginny Jelatis, 67, thinks about it too. She was of high school senior age the year Roe v. Wade was decided; she began serving as a clinic escort after retiring from her work as a history professor in 2016.
43 percent in 1970 to 57.4 percent in 2019. Many different factors drove women into the work force in greater numbers in those years, but scholars argue that abortion access was an important one.
poll in 2021 found that 59 percent of Americans said they believed abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 39 percent said it should be illegal in all or most cases. Recent Pew data indicates that women are slightly more likely than men to say abortion should be legal in all cases, and younger people, between the ages of 18 and 29, are far more likely than older adults to say abortion should be legal in some or all cases.
Justice Harry A. Blackmun, a modest Midwestern Republican and a defender of the right to abortion, wrote the majority opinion.
What was the case about? The ruling struck down laws in many states that had barred abortion, declaring that they could not ban the procedure before the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb. That point, known as fetal viability, was around 28 weeks when Roe was decided. Today, most experts estimate it to be about 23 or 24 weeks.
What else did the case do? Roe v. Wade created a framework to govern abortion regulation based on the trimesters of pregnancy. In the first trimester, it allowed almost no regulations. In the second, it allowed regulations to protect women’s health. In the third, it allowed states to ban abortions so long as exceptions were made to protect the life and health of the mother. In 1992, the court tossed that framework, while affirming Roe’s essential holding.
Recent research has tried to understand the role abortion access plays in women’s employment. Most notable is the Turnaway Study, conducted at the University of California, San Francisco. Researchers followed two groups of women — a group that wanted and got abortions, and another that wanted abortions and were unable to obtain them — for five years and found that those unable to get abortions had worse economic outcomes. Almost two-thirds of those who did not have an abortion they had sought out were living in poverty six months later, compared with 45 percent of those who got the procedure.
patchwork of state laws on abortion access, with 13 states set to ban abortion immediately or very quickly after the court’s ruling. There is likely a correlation between the regions of the country where it is most difficult to get an abortion, and those with the fewest child care and parental leave options, according to an analysis of research findings from the financial site WalletHub.
For older women who felt they were able to attain financial stability because of the decision to have an abortion, there is resonance in sharing their stories with the younger women they meet at clinics today.
“The older folks I work with can remember that dread of, ‘My God, what if it happens to me?’” said Ms. Deiermann, who spent most of her career working in reproductive health advocacy.
Many clinic volunteers, like Ms. Deiermann, remember when their classmates and friends got illegal abortions. Telling those stories feels more urgent than ever.
Karen Kelley, 67, a retired labor and delivery nurse in Idaho, who volunteers at an abortion clinic there, spent her childhood aligned with her Roman Catholic family’s anti-abortion views. Then she found herself pregnant in her early 20s, without an income to support a baby. Realizing that motherhood could “derail all her hopes,” she chose to terminate that pregnancy, about six years after Roe.
That’s a memory Ms. Kelley conveys to the women she escorts to the clinic’s steps. “If I’m asked, I’m always honest that I understand how they’re feeling because I had an abortion and they have every right to make the decision,” she said.
And some older women said that the position they’re in now — retired, with savings and stability — is something they trace back to Roe.
“It gave us a chance to decide to marry and have a family later,” said Eileen Ehlers, 74, a retired high school English teacher and a mother.
What Roe gave her, she said, is something she can now pour back into volunteering: “We have time.”
Even more recently, corporate leaders were reminded of how fraught engagement can be. Disney, for example, faced internal backlash when its leadership declined to take a strong stance against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education act, which critics often refer to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. But when the chief executive did take a public stance, the company was crucified on social media, and the state revoked its special tax benefits.
From Opinion: A Challenge to Roe v. Wade
Commentary by Times Opinion writers and columnists on the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Now, with the expected demise of the country’s landmark abortion law, corporate leaders are confronting the hottest of hot-button issues. In a Pew Research poll in 2021, 59 percent of Americans said they believed that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 39 percent said it should be illegal in all or most cases. People on all sides of the issue feel strongly about it, with nearly a quarter of Americans saying they will vote only for candidates who share their views on abortion, according to Gallup.
That all adds up to many reasons a company would want to avoid making any statement on abortion — and all the more reason that customers and workers could come to see it as necessary. A company’s position on the end of Roe could have repercussions for how it hires in an increasingly competitive labor market, and how customers view its brand.
“Abortion is a health care issue, health care is an employer issue, so abortion is an issue for employers,” said Carolyn Witte, chief executive of Tia, a women’s health care company. On Tuesday, Tia announced that it would provide medication abortions through its telemedicine platform in states where it operated and where doing so was legal.
For some major companies that have been known to weigh in on political and social issues, this week has been unusually quiet. Walmart, Disney, Meta, PwC, Salesforce, JPMorgan Chase, ThirdLove, Patagonia, Kroger and Business Roundtable were among the companies and organizations that declined to comment or take a position, or did not respond to requests for comment about whether they plan to make public statements about their stance on abortion. Hobby Lobby, which in 2014 brought a suit to the Supreme Court challenging whether employer-provided health care had to include contraception, made no public statement and did not respond to a request for comment.
Other companies did wade in. United Talent Agency said it would reimburse travel expenses for employees affected by abortion bans. Airbnb said it would ensure its employees “have the resources they need to make choices about their reproductive rights.” Levi Strauss & Company, which has said its benefits plan will reimburse employees who have to travel out of state for health care services such as abortions, said abortion was a business issue.
SEOUL — They have shown up whenever women rallied against sexual violence and gender biases in South Korea. Dozens of young men, mostly dressed in black, taunted the protesters, squealing and chanting, “Thud! Thud!” to imitate the noise they said the “ugly feminist pigs” made when they walked.
“Out with man haters!” they shouted. “Feminism is a mental illness!”
On the streets, such rallies would be easy to dismiss as the extreme rhetoric of a fringe group. But the anti-feminist sentiments are being amplified online, finding a vast audience that is increasingly imposing its agenda on South Korean society and politics.
These male activists have targeted anything that smacks of feminism, forcing a university to cancel a lecture by a woman they accused of spreading misandry. They have vilified prominent women, criticizing An San, a three-time gold medalist in the Tokyo Olympics, for her short haircut.
They have threatened businesses with boycotts, prompting companies to pull advertisements with the image of pinching fingers they said ridiculed the size of male genitalia. And they have taken aim at the government for promoting a feminist agenda, eliciting promises from rival presidential candidates to reform the country’s 20-year-old Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.
runaway housing prices, a lack of jobs and a widening income gap.
YouTube channel with 450,000 subscribers. To its members, feminists equal man haters.
Its motto once read, “Till the day all feminists are exterminated!”
The backlash against feminism in South Korea may seem bewildering.
the highest gender wage gap among the wealthy countries. Less than one-fifth of its national lawmakers are women. Women make up only 5.2 percent of the board members of publicly listed businesses, compared with 28 percent in the United States.
And yet, most young men in the country argue that it is men, not women, in South Korea who feel threatened and marginalized. Among South Korean men in their 20s, nearly 79 percent said they were victims of serious gender discrimination, according to a poll in May.
“There is a culture of misogyny in male-dominant online communities, depicting feminists as radical misandrists and spreading fear of feminists,” said Kim Ju-hee, 26, a nurse who has organized protests denouncing anti-feminists.
The wave of anti-feminism in South Korea shares many of the incendiary taglines with right-wing populist movements in the West that peddle such messages. Women who argue for abortion rights are labeled “destroyers of family.” Feminists are not champions of gender equality, but “female supremacists.”
In South Korea, “women” and “feminists” are two of the most common targets of online hate speech, according to the country’s National Human Rights Commission.
abortions were common.
mandatory military service. But many women drop out of the work force after giving birth, and much of the domestic duties fall to them.
“What more do you want? We gave you your own space in the subway, bus, parking lot,” the male rapper San E writes in his 2018 song “Feminist,” which has a cult following among young anti-feminists. “Oh girls don’t need a prince! Then pay half for the house when we marry.”
The gender wars have infused the South Korean presidential race, largely seen as a contest for young voters. With the virulent anti-feminist voice surging, no major candidate is speaking out for women’s rights, once such a popular cause that President Moon Jae-in called himself a “feminist” when he campaigned about five years ago.
It is hard to tell how many young men support the kind of extremely provocative and often theatrical activism championed by groups like Man on Solidarity. Its firebrand leader, Mr. Bae, showed up at a recent feminist rally dressed as the Joker from “Batman” comics and toting a toy water gun. He followed female protesters around, pretending to, as he put it, “kill flies.”
Tens of thousands of fans have watched his stunts livestreamed online, sending in cash donations. During one online talk-fest in August, Mr. Bae raised nine million won ($7,580) in three minutes.
legalize abortion and started one of the most powerful #MeToo campaigns in Asia.
Lee Hyo-lin, 29, said that “feminist” has become such a dirty word that women who wear their hair short or carry a novel by a feminist writer risk ostracism. When she was a member of a K-pop group, she said that male colleagues routinely commented on her body, jeering that she “gave up being a woman” when she gained weight.
“The #MeToo problem is part of being a woman in South Korea,” she said. “Now we want to speak out, but they want us to shut up. It’s so frustrating.”
On the other side of the culture war are young men with a litany of grievances — concerns that are endlessly regurgitated by male-dominated forums. They have fixated, in particular, on limited cases of false accusations, as a way to give credence to a broader anti-feminist agenda.
Son Sol-bin, a used-furniture seller, was 29 when his former girlfriend accused him of rape and kidnapping in 2018. Online trolls called for his castration, he said. His mother found closed-circuit TV footage proving the accusations never took place.
“The feminist influence has left the system so biased against men that the police took a woman’s testimony and a mere drop of her tears as enough evidence to land an innocent man in jail,” said Mr. Son, who spent eight months in jail before he was cleared. “I think the country has gone crazy.”
As Mr. Son fought back tears during a recent anti-feminist rally, other young men chanted: “Be strong! We are with you!”
In Texas, a new law bars doctors from providing pills to induce abortions after seven weeks of pregnancy, and adds penalties of jail time and a fine of up to $10,000 for anyone who mails or delivers the medication.
Legal experts say such laws may be challenged after the F.D.A. decision, but for now, these state measures could discourage American doctors from sending pills to parts of the country with restrictive regulations.
“For the first time, Texas does have a way to protect women, through our criminal law, from people bringing dangerous abortion pills,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life, an organization that helped craft the measure. “We’ll have to wait to see how well it is enforced in the coming months.”
Anti-abortion groups acknowledge that criminally punishing activists who distribute the pills, especially if they are from Mexico, may prove difficult. They would have to be caught and arrested in Texas, or extradited, experts say.
“This is a really terrible, lawless attack on life,” John Seago, the legislative director for Texas Right to Life, said of the Mexican activists’ plan to help women in Texas get abortions, adding that such efforts would “make it absolutely more difficult to do it, to enforce these laws.”
Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, the leader of Aid Access, an Austria-based group that provides abortion pills to women across the world, confirmed she has been prescribing the medication to women in Texas — who then receive the drugs by mail from a pharmacy in India — even after the state’s law went into effect this month.