By Emily Kestel, Fearless editor
Editor’s note: A leaked draft opinion obtained and published by Politico last week showed that the Supreme Court has voted to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, the 49-year precedent that protected the constitutional right to abortion.
Chief Justice John Roberts has indicated that while the leaked document was indeed authentic, it’s not the final decision of the court. The final decision is expected this summer.
The 98-page opinion was authored by Justice Samuel Alito. In it, he wrote, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
It’s believed that four of the other Republican-appointed justices – Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – voted with Alito. The three Democratic-appointed justices – Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – are said to be working on one or more dissents. It’s not clear how Roberts will vote.
The case has been viewed by some as a major step in the women’s rights movement but has been polarizing from the start because of its politicization and its public health effects. More recently it’s become yet another social issue that businesses have found themselves intertwined with. While the Business Record is apolitical, we report on governmental decisions that affect business. Through Fearless, we believe it’s imperative to talk about policy related to gender and family issues.
What are the implications if Roe v. Wade does indeed get overturned?
It’s estimated that roughly 1 in 4 women in the U.S. will have an abortion by age 45. In 2016, more than 88% of abortions occurred within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and two-thirds of abortions occurred within the first eight weeks.
If the court does rule to overturn Roe v. Wade and leave it up to the states, 13 states are set to limit or prohibit abortion access immediately, and it’s expected that half the states may eventually prohibit all or most abortions, including Iowa, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Sixteen states – mostly located on the coasts – and Washington, D.C., have laws protecting the right to an abortion, even if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
One estimate shows that the average American would have to travel 125 miles to reach the nearest clinic that offers an abortion.
Research suggests that abortion bans and restrictions have profound effects on maternal health and well-being.
“There are going to be women that will die from pregnancy because of this decision, period,” Dr. Amy Addante, an OB-GYN in Illinois, said in an NBC News article.
Abortion rights advocates say that abortion restrictions and bans hurt low-income people, young people and people of color the most.
The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed country, and the rate is rising. Iowa’s maternal mortality rate is 9.4 per 100,000 live births. That rate is higher for Black, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander people.
Democrats have taken this opportunity to remind Americans about the benefits – or lack thereof – that are available to parents, including access to child care and paid family leave. One person tweeted, “77% of American workers have no paid parental leave. 1 in 4 moms goes to work 2 weeks after giving birth. Childcare costs as much as college, and the U.S. invests 0.2% of its GDP on it. For a nation seemingly set on making people have babies, we sure don’t want to invest in them.”
How supportive are Americans of abortions?
A majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, though in the states that have so-called trigger laws in place, people tend to believe that it should be mostly or fully illegal.
A New York Times analysis estimated that 52% of Iowans believe abortion should be mostly legal, while 45% believe it should be mostly illegal. A 2021 Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found that 57% of Iowans say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while 38% say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases.
What are reactions from elected officials?
President Joe Biden: “I believe that a woman’s right to choose is fundamental, Roe has been the law of the land for almost fifty years, and basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned.”
Vice President Kamala Harris: “Women’s issues are America’s issues, and democracies cannot be strong if the rights of women are under attack. So to all here I say, let us fight for our country and for the principles upon which it was founded, and let us fight with everything we have got.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds: “As we await the Supreme Court’s final ruling, our mission remains as clear as it has ever been. We are fighting to defend the most important freedom there is: the right to life.”
Gubernatorial candidate Deidre DeJear: DeJear tweeted on May 2, “Tonight women across our nation are angry and they are scared. I see you. Let this soak in tonight … because tomorrow we don’t mourn, we get back to work to ensure that every Iowan has access to the healthcare and reproductive care that they need.”
Sen. Joni Ernst: Ernst has not issued a public statement, but has in the past indicated that she’s in favor of overturning Roe. Per the Washington Post, Ernst is also planning to introduce legislation that would ban abortion at around six weeks.
Sen. Chuck Grassley: “I don’t think anybody should be surprised about where I stand on Roe. I’ve had the same position for decades.” (He has expressed support for the overturning of Roe.)
Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks: “If the Supreme Court does in fact rule as the leaked draft suggests, it would be a long-overdue return to fidelity to the text of our Constitution and places this issue back at the hands of the states. As an elected official, I have always voted to uphold the sanctity of life and to protect the unborn.”
Rep. Cindy Axne: “Depriving a woman of the right to make her own medical decisions is dangerous and shortsighted. We already know laws that restrict access to health care do not result in fewer abortions, but instead force women to risk their lives and seek unsafe care.”
Rep. Ashley Hinson: “If it is true that Roe v. Wade’s days are numbered, countless lives will be saved, but our fight to protect innocent life isn’t over.”
Rep. Randy Feenstra: “For nearly half a century, the Roe v. Wade decision has allowed for the destruction of innocent life in America. I am incredibly encouraged that the Supreme Court appears to finally recognize the injustice this misguided decision has caused and I remain committed to protecting all life.”
The Des Moines Register has a roundup of other prominent Iowans who have commented on the draft, including perspectives from Senate candidates.
How does this affect Iowans?
Abortion is currently legal in Iowa as long as the procedure takes place before 20 weeks into pregnancy. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, access to abortion will not immediately disappear.
The Iowa Supreme Court is expected to consider a legal challenge to a 2020 law that requires a 24-hour waiting period to obtain an abortion. That decision could overturn the 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that stated the right to abortion is protected in the state’s constitution.
At the same time, Republican lawmakers have proposed a constitutional amendment that would say Iowa “does not recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or require the public funding of abortion.” If it passes through both chambers of the next General Assembly, it will move to the ballot where Iowans will vote on it.
On the heels of the draft opinion, officials in the small western Iowa town of Willey passed an ordinance that bans abortions within its city limits, including those that are medically induced. It’s said to be the first city in the state to do so, and the 49th in the country.
Why are some people considering abortion restrictions a business issue?
Women make up half of the workforce, and those who are unable to get abortions are less likely to be employed full time six months after denial of care, according to a paper published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2018.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research released a study in 2021 estimating that current state-level abortion restrictions cost the U.S. about $105 billion each year due to a reduction in earning levels, increased job turnover and time off. The study also stated that if all state-level abortion restrictions were eliminated, 505,000 more women of reproductive age would be in the workforce, earning about $3 billion each year.
Others have made the argument that abortion is health care, and health care is an employer issue.
The vast majority of companies have stayed quiet on the issue of abortion restrictions thus far. “It is generally a mistake for corporate leaders to wade into political issues, particularly divisive political issues where they might alienate half their customer base,” Anne Cori, chairman of the anti-abortion group Eagle Forum, told the New York Times.
A few – many in Texas, which is home to nearly 10% of all Fortune 500 companies – have taken public stances on abortion access and how they intend to assist their employees should they want or need one.
Lyft and Uber have promised to cover legal fees for drivers if they’re sued under the Texas law that allows U.S. citizens to file lawsuits against those who help people obtain an abortion.
Salesforce, which has offices in Texas, has said it will help relocate employees who are concerned about access reproductive care in the state.
Levi’s, through a written statement, said restriction access to abortion would have “far-reaching consequences for the American workforce, the U.S. economy and our nation’s pursuit of gender and racial equity,” adding that the end of Roe v. Wade would “jeopardize workplace gains women have made over the past 50 years, disproportionately impact women of color and force companies to implement different health policies for different locations.”
Experts are forecasting, though, that businesses may have to pick a side if they want to retain employees, though it likely will come with a steep price of political backlash regardless of what they choose to do – or not do.
In a New York Times article, Yelp Chief Diversity Officer Miriam Warren said: “The days of companies not wading into political issues, or not speaking out on things that are perceived as private or personal, are over.”
Related: Register to attend the Business Record’s Power Breakfast event, where panelists will discuss the impact of business involvement in social issues and what goes into the decision to speak up.