A reader wrote last weekend to ask why technology companies shouldn’t speak out about Texas’s abortion laws.
The reader asked, “What has American Airlines to do with Abortion?” He suggested that American Airlines cannot possibly serve both pro-abortion as well as anti-abortion supporters and that asking them for a position on an unrelated issue would only lead to America’s politicization.
This is a common view. Yesterday’s decision by the U.S. Department of Justice, to contest the law that U.S. Attorney general Merrick Garland called “clearly inconstitutional,” could only reinforce this belief. It’s clear that if there is anyone who should push back against the events in Lone Star State it would be other legislators and not corporations.
There are many reasons for tech companies, especially Tesla, to get out of the shadows.
It’s a fact that abortion restrictions lead to higher healthcare costs for employers, but one consequence of the Texas law that could hit tech companies especially hard is its impact on hiring. According to a study by the social enterprise Rhia Ventures, 60% of women say they would be discouraged from taking a job in a state that has tried to restrict access to abortion, and the same is true for a slight majority of men, the study found.
Texas’s new abortion law creates an additional-judicial enforcement mechanism which should alarm tech companies. Private citizens can sue abortion providers and anyone else who unwittingly assists a woman to have an abortion. This law applies regardless of whether there is a legal connection. If a plaintiff wins, the plaintiff will receive $10,000 in damages. The costs of each defendant are also covered.
Imagine if the same precedent was applied to a matter that affects technology companies such as privacy. As Seth Chandler, a law professor at the University of Houston Law Center, observed to ABC this week. The SB 8 recipe isn’t limited to abortion. You can use it for all constitutional rights people do not like.
It’s possible for tech companies to say that ignoring the Texas abortion debate is like jumping on a wire. This viewpoint can be easy to understand. Even though Pew Research reports that about 6 in 10 Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, passions are heated on both sides.
Corporations have always stood firm on their principles in controversial areas and it has been proven that corporate pressure can work. In a 2016, a group of roughly 70 major corporations, including Apple, Cisco, and even, yes, American Airlines, joined a legal effort to block a North Carolina law that banned transgender people from using public bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. The brief of their “friend-of the court” argued that this law would encourage discrimination and hinder them from recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce.
By 2017, having already experienced severe economic consequences a lot of these same companies stopped doing business with North Carolina, the ban was rescinded.
The handful of CEOs, including from Lyft, Uber, Yelp, and Bumble have already taken very public positions against the next Texas law. Tesla, a company that is so big in Texas could make a bigger difference to the state’s political landscape. Elon Musk’s arrival in Texas sparked a firestorm of interest. Texas Governor Greg Abbott became so aware of Musk’s influence, he stated that Musk had supported the state’s “social policy” just days after it was passed.
Musk, whose financial interests include Starbase in Texas and becoming a local power provider, has refused to make a statement on the law. Musk responded to a question about the topic by saying, “In general I believe that government shouldn’t impose its will on the people and should, when it does, strive for maximum their collective happiness.”
He also added that he would “prefer to stay out of politics.”
This could be a mistake, as at least seven state lawmakers, along with South Dakota and Florida, indicated that they are closing the review of Texas’s law and looking into similar legislations.
Nearly 200 CEOs signed an ad in the New York Times declaring that bans on abortion were bad for business. It was written by Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Peter Grauer from Bloomberg.
If Musk truly believes government should “rarely impose its will upon the people,” he should take a similar, public stand in Texas while the federal government fights what’s anticipated to be a long, uphill battle. Musk has nothing to lose and much to gain by doing this.
Publited Sat, 11 September 2021 at 05:42.04 (+0000).