CEOs Becoming More Active On Political Issues, Including Abortion Historically, CEOs spoke out on political issues relevant to their bottom lines, but as the fight over abortion escalates, some say their employees and customers expect them to take a stand.

CEOs Becoming More Active On Political Issues, Including Abortion

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More than 180 business leaders published a letter this week opposing the new restrictive abortion laws in several states. The letter is signed by CEOs of companies including MAC Cosmetics, Bloomberg, the electronic payments company Square and designer Eileen Fisher. As NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports, it is another sign CEOs are increasingly speaking out on a variety of political issues.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: The full-page ad in The New York Times this week read, in part...

TY HANEY: Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health, independence and economic stability of our employees and customers.

NOGUCHI: Ty Haney is CEO of recreational clothing company Outdoor Voices and one of the letter's signatories. Normally, she says, her business stays out of politics. The company's nine stores don't operate in states where more restrictive abortion laws were recently enacted. But Haney says she wanted to take a stand.

HANEY: We believe every person should be empowered to make the choices that are right for them. It is all about access and our commitment to that.

NOGUCHI: Other companies that signed the letter have been active in politics for a long time. This latest public rebuke comes on the heels of threats by media companies, including Disney, Netflix and Warner Media, to stop filming in Georgia. That state last month enacted a law, set to take effect in January, banning abortions after doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat. That could be as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

Missouri and Alabama also recently enacted restrictive laws. Some business leaders are becoming more outspoken on a variety of political issues, from race relations to LGBTQ rights to higher age restrictions on gun and tobacco sales.

Ronnie Chatterji is a business professor at Duke University. He says abortion is different because it is far more controversial.

RONNIE CHATTERJI: We expected companies to be a little more cautious.

NOGUCHI: That's because, historically, leaders spoke out only on issues directly related to their business.

CHATTERJI: I think the definition of what relates to your business and your bottom line is changing.

NOGUCHI: These days, Chatterji says, workers look to their CEOs to take public positions on issues that matter to them.

The letter is part of a broader campaign called Don't Ban Equality. It is sponsored by the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups. Organizers say the letter marks the first step in engaging corporate supporters as the fight over abortion escalates.

Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington.

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