There are a lot of ways to use your power as a businessperson.

You can develop your employees until they shine. You can connect other powerful people. You can invest your money in philanthropy that helps thousands, or even millions.

You can be a megaphone for what's right.

If there is a cause worth amplifying with a megaphone right now, it is the rights of women in states like Alabama.

Regressive abortion bans in places like Alabama are dangerous, backwards, and wrong. And this morning, 11 women leaders from major brands THINX, Cora, Fur, LOOM, Dame, Sustain Natural and Clary Collection put out a full-page letter in the New York Times not only taking a stand on the issue themselves, but challenging corporate America to join them.

"As women, and business leaders, we support the right to choose today and every day," said Molly Hayward of Cora; Alexandra Fine & Janet Lieberman of Dame; Laura Schubert & Lillian Tung of Fur; Erica Chidi Cohen & Quinn Lundberg of LOOM; Meika Hollender of Sustain Natural; Adriel Denae & Jen Auerbach of Clary Collection; and Maria Molland of THINX Inc.

"For too long, corporate America has been largely silent on speaking up for sexual and reproductive health and rights," the group stated. "That must change. Today, we loudly and boldly declare that we will not be silent in defense of fundamental human rights and we challenge our peers in the business community to do the same. Now is the time to speak up."

It's an issue worth speaking up about.

In 1930, abortion was listed as the official cause of death for almost 2,700 women that year alone. Unsafe abortions have been the cause of demeaning and horrific experiences for women for centuries, and safe ones make a real difference in real people's lives.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, "By making abortion legal nationwide, Roe v. Wade has had a dramatic impact on the health and well-being of American women. Deaths from abortion have plummeted ... In addition, women have been able to have abortions earlier in pregnancy when the procedure is safest: The proportion of abortions obtained early in the first trimester has risen from 20% in 1970 to 56% in 1998 (see chart). These public health accomplishments may now be seriously threatened."

They won't be threatened quietly, however.

"The female voice was effectively silenced for the first half of the life of this nation," said Jen Auerbach & Adriel Denae in the letter, co-Founders of Clary Collection, a safe, non-toxic skincare brand. "Now, 99 years after gaining the right to vote, we find our choices and bodies held in another balance of legislative will."

Members of the group were quick to include the fact that such abortion bans affect low-income and non-white populations far more heavily than their wealthy, white counterparts.

"At THINX Inc.," said Maria Molland, the company's CEO, "we choose to loudly defend abortion as a constitutional right-- especially for trans and nonbinary folx, and communities of color, who are disproportionately affected by these policies."

Disproportionate is putting it mildly: In the early 1970s, the mortality rate from illegal abortion for non-white women was 12 times that for white women. Not double. Not triple. 12x.

It's not just a political issue for the women leaders of the letter, either--it's personal.

"I've worked at Planned Parenthood," said Alexandra Fine from Dame, a sex toy company committed to helping establish a safe and pleasurable sexual culture for all. "It's never an easy decision. I've held the hands of women during their procedures. I know the gravity of their decisions and safety we offered them on one of their darkest days."

Dark days indeed. Many believe it is absolutely outrageous that the choice to receive safe medical care around so fundamentally personal of a thing should ever be legislated upon. 

Erica Chidi Cohen, CEO and Co-Founder of LOOM, which provides health education and builds community around reproductive experiences like periods, pregnancy and abortion, put it succinctly: "The choice belongs in the hands of the pregnant person, not in the hands of the government."

Yet the government can't seem to get its hands off the issue. And it's easy to become complacent or assume your voice doesn't matter when huge human rights issues like these seem to go backwards, not forwards.

But that's part of the power of the letter: It shows what solidarity looks like. It is a big, loud, determined announcement that we--whether women or the allies of women--will not go quietly into the night. We will not roll over and allow the rights of our fellow human beings to deteriorate. Whether in board rooms or break rooms, on Wall Street or Main Street, we will be noisy and persistent and dedicated and outraged and heartbroken and powerful all at once. 

As Alexandra Fine from Dame said in the piece:

"We are the future and we will fight to protect women's wellbeing."

Published on: May 21, 2019
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