As a group of conservative states enacted severe abortion restrictions last year, Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois sent letters to a handful of corporate executives with close ties to Texas.
Mr. Pritzker, a Democrat, urged executives to rethink basing their companies in “a state that strips its residents of their dignity.” Most workers, he wrote, did not want to live under a rigid abortion ban.
There was no immediate response to his overture. Companies thriving in Texas’ freewheeling business environment were not about to flee because of legally contested abortion regulations that were not certain to be enforced.
Ten months later, the political and legal landscape is radically different. And a Supreme Court decision that abolished the right to an abortion is now threatening to reshape the lines of economic competition between conservative and liberal states.
For companies anchored in economically vibrant conservative states like Texas, Tennessee and Georgia, the rollback of women’s rights is no longer a hypothetical scenario but an immediate challenge. It represents a potential disruption to the calculus that has made Republican-led Sun Belt states a draw for big companies, which have tended to embrace the reduced taxes and regulations while treating local social policy as something of a sideshow.
That bargain may have grown more difficult in states that have imposed punitive abortion restrictions, banning the procedure altogether or limiting it nearly to the point of elimination.
Some of the country’s biggest businesses, including JPMorgan Chase, AT&T and the Walt Disney Company, have already announced they would take steps to help employees who need abortion access but cannot obtain it in their home states. There have not yet been major announcements about companies canceling expansions or relocating offices out of jurisdictions where abortion is now banned.
In states like Texas and Georgia, Republican lawmakers are effectively wagering that the local business environment will remain appealing enough to overcome concerns about women’s rights. And to some conservative politicians, the risk of alienating business investment is a price worth paying to eradicate abortion.
The fallout of the Supreme Court’s ruling could be more dangerous for states that share Texas’ economic and social policies but lack its longstanding status as an economic powerhouse — states like Arkansas and Oklahoma, which have passed some of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country. [Continue reading…]