The overwhelmingly white male leadership of Silicon Valley will be the first to tell you that they, too, are socially liberal. As such, many of them ostensibly support women’s reproductive rights. On Monday, nearly 200 entrepreneurs, CEOs, founders, and general startup and business dudes decided to make that commitment official with a full-page ad in the New York Times opposing “policies that hinder people’s health, independence, and ability to fully succeed in the workplace.”
Or, to put it more simply, those who signed said abortion bans are “bad for business”—not “bad for women and anyone with a womb,” which you’d think would’ve been more to the point.
The full ad, put out by a coalition called Don’t Ban Equality, does not include the word “women” and uses the word “abortion” only once. It doesn’t attempt to name and shame states of lawmakers who’ve pushed anti-abortion measures. It does, however, use the phrase, “ability to build diverse and inclusive workforce pipelines,” which is almost as good, I guess.
“Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health, independence and economic stability of our employees and customers,” the signatories wrote. “Simply put, it goes against our values, and is bad for business.”
Don’t Ban Equality’s site does say that the tech leaders’ statement is an implicit response to the recent spate of draconian abortion restrictions being passed at the state level. But that’s not what you get in the paper. In the paper, you get a long list of big names like Jack Dorsey, Slack’s Steward Butterfield, and a bunch of other startup CEOs, alongside some fashion, finance, retail, and media names. Those names appear on top of an utterly generic statement about “equality” that puts as little emphasis on the actual policy as possible. It makes no mention of the specific groups of people who will be harmed by these bills—referring only to their “employees and customers”—and frames the entire issue as one that will harm their ability to make money.
Don’t Ban Equality’s site mentions several more factoids, like the fact that the vast majority of Americans don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade or that 90 percent of millennials (that all important generation of consumers!) care about “reproductive health.” Economic incentives—like refusing to do business in states that have passed these laws, something Disney has threatened to do in Georgia—have worked before. North Carolina’s idiotic, transphobic “bathroom bill” ended up costing the state an estimated $3.76 billion. If you’re going to bother with a full-page ad, give it teeth, not just platitudes. Otherwise you could wind up sounding like “business” is the bottom line.