In response to legislators’ recent advancement of multiple harsh limits on abortions, my social media feed repeatedly blazoned an image reading, “men shouldn’t be making laws about women’s bodies.” This syllogism, as perfect as it is for a 10-second Instagram story or a bumper sticker, highlights the historic debate of abortion as a matter of women’s rights. And it is.
However, ovaries as the single credential to governing reproductive health loses its moxie with Kay Ivey, a woman and governor in Alabama, as the face and signature of the state's recent restrictive abortion measures. And the money that funds her campaign? It’s coming from popular corporate entities that boast about workplace equality and supporting women in the workforce.
In late May, Popular Information released campaign finance reports from six states that recently passed substantial restrictions on abortion. The newsletter disclosed significant contributions from six mega-corporations — AT&T, Coca Cola, Eli Lilly, Walmart, Pfizer, and Aetna — to politicians who are in favor of the abortion ban.
It should be noted that locating these donations within a public database, like followthemoney.org, is immensely difficult. Despite laws requiring PACs, political action committees with the intent to contribute money to elect political candidates, disclose their donations to political campaigns, campaign finances are uniquely documented from state to state and are often categorized under multiple titles, impairing transparency. The data presented is not necessarily factually unreliable, but verifying the information is deliberately exhausting.
As these corporations financially backed aggressively pro-life politicians, they simultaneously boasted women's empowerment at their companies. On its website, AT&T flaunts having a management team that’s 35 percent female and declares “...we make sure women at AT&T feel supported in everything they do.”
At the 2016 Women’s Global Forum Meeting, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent puffed that their senior leadership team is 32 percent female during a session titled “Why I am a Feminist.” Pfizer’s website exhibits more direct irony, asserting its commitment to gender equality “by improving access to equitable healthcare for women in underserved communities.” The list of contradictions continues.
Corporations posing as front-runners of the social justice movement isn’t new, nor is the emptiness of their claims. Just as institutions like Coca-Cola use progressive rhetoric to remain relevant, they pay politicians to maintain power. These companies are not secret Christian pro-life advocates; enabling abortion restrictions is not explicitly their agenda, though they should be held accountable for the consequences of their apathy. They are advocates for their own power and will do whatever it takes to preserve their interests — even if that means thirty-something percent of their leadership team surrenders their uteri to lawmakers.
Why would women in leadership positions at these corporations tolerate this? Given their elevated roles at these companies, their own access to reproductive care is not in jeopardy. In the case of unwanted pregnancy, they have health insurance, as well as means to travel to a different state for an abortion. Companies that take pride in supporting equality within the workplace need to be mindful about the politicians they are supporting with their corporate dollars. Ovaries do not equate to the ability to police other bodies, just as speaking at a global women’s forum does not justify a 32 percent female workforce.
But the abortion ban cannot be summed up as an attack on women’s rights alone; like any medical matter within a private system of healthcare, it is inherently classist. The issue isn’t merely men governing women’s bodies, but rather, privileged people punishing poor people.