Business tries not to pick sides in politics. Companies often donate to both Democrats and Republicans. After all, why risk alienating as much as half your customer base?

But the Supreme Court’s recent overturning of the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade constitutional right to an abortion is scrambling that calculus, along with much else in American politics, society and jurisprudence.

For example, Amazon, Alaska Airlines, Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, T-Mobile and Zillow are among the Seattle area companies that have pledged to pay expenses for employees who must travel for reproductive health care. That includes abortions.

Nationally, such major companies such as Disney, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Facebook parent Meta have implemented similar policies.

Florida’s governor has already signed a law that soon would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, legislation that would be legal under the ruling of the Supreme Court. Disney, which employs approximately 80,000 in the state, has stated it remains committed to giving its workers “comprehensive access” to affordable health care — including reproductive care and family planning — “no matter where they live.”

All of which begs the question: Will these companies pay a price for their stance? Or, will companies that choose not to support workers’ health care needs be punished by consumers and politicians?

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Polling in May by the Pew Research Center showed that 61% of respondents said abortion should be legal in “all” or “most” circumstances. Only 37% said it should be illegal.

At the same time, the Pew poll showed a much more nuanced and divided response on the moral and social considerations regarding abortion.

No wonder many companies, including those that had been supportive of social justice issues, were hesitant to weigh in on this past month’s Supreme Court ruling beyond policies affecting their employees. Polling by the consumer research firm Forrester found that few respondents said companies should take a stand on abortion.

Thus, Facebook and Instagram are removing posts offering abortion pills, which would have been available to women in states where abortion is now illegal or soon will be.

in 2019 a report from a pro-abortion think tank detailed how 66 major companies contributed to Republican politicians who were sponsoring laws that would limit or seek to outlaw abortion. Among them was Boeing, as well as AT&T, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Delta, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Google, PepsiCo, Pfizer and Walmart. These companies were otherwise publicly committed to women’s advancement.

Now the abortion battle moves to the states, “the laboratories of democracy.” According to an interactive map of The New York Times, about half the states are “expected to allow bans or other limits on the procedure to take effect.” These include our Pacific Northwest neighbor Idaho.

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What the numbers say

Washington, Oregon, California, New York and a few other states are expanding access, while such states as Minnesota, Colorado and Nevada are keeping abortion protection in place.

Again, will these states pay a price for their laws?

Texas comes to mind. It’s been a huge jobs engine, including for the tech sector in Austin. The Lone Star State intends to outlaw abortions (a temporary restraining order was issued by a judge in Houston, but unlikely to stand).

Will the “creative class,” as urban scholar Richard Florida termed it — especially among high-end tech workers — continue to come to Texas? Or will Austin, especially, be hobbled by the state’s restrictive law on reproductive freedom?

Most Big Tech companies have kept quiet, so far. But earlier this year, Wired reported, “One Apple employee on a Texas-based team, who has been working remotely in another state, says he has thought about quitting if he is forced to relocate to Texas when offices reopen. The employee and his partner have volunteered at abortion clinics, and the partner worries about potential future restrictions on her access to birth control.”

In Tennessee, where a near total ban on abortions is in place, can Nashville continue to attract tech workers? Many companies have been hesitant to push back.

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Employees of companies such as Amazon may be protected by the company’s promise of travel expenses to a state where abortion is legal.

On the other hand, millions of women without the benefit of these high-end jobs lack the ability to travel for abortions. Even so, an Axios poll found 56% of young women respondents would seek an abortion even if it was illegal.

Events are moving us far beyond business.

The Supreme Court’s decision may only be the start of judicial activism on the part of a supermajority of right-wing justices. Clarence Thomas has said the high court “should reconsider” protection of contraception and same-sex marriage, too.

Another high court ruling just gutted the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate the emissions behind human-caused climate change. Some states, including Washington, intend to make their own regulations, but this is far less effective than federal rules.

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss tweeted, “This is how three of these Supreme Court Justices got there: One appointment was stolen from Obama. Another vacancy occurred after Trump worked to entice a sitting Justice to leave. Trump rushed third appointment onto Supreme Court exactly eight days before 2020 election he lost.”

Not only the legitimacy of the Supreme Court is crumbling, but so is the union.

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Astonishingly, despite the revelations of the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection, abetted by former President Donald Trump and his Republican enablers (honorable exception Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger), the GOP appears poised to take control of the House and even the Senate this year. Trump might win in 2024.

To be sure, the far left of the Democratic Party has done itself no favors with such policies as defunding the police, only popular in a few outliers such as Seattle. But the Republicans have shown themselves as a cult controlled by Trump and unfit for power. Yet their control of a majority of statehouses has led to a raft of voter suppression laws and gerrymandering.

The result: The next two years might be the end of our experiment in self-government, with permanent Republican control of the national government and most states outside of a few, mostly on the coasts.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The consequences for business are among the least of our worries.

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