Commentary by Andy Puzder originally published by RealClearPolicy.com
The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was a long-awaited victory for life. While Dobbs did not make abortion illegal, it did empower the residents of all 50 states to democratically determine abortion’s legal status through their elected representatives. Currently, 22 states provide or will soon provide protection for unborn children. The other 28 states place few or no limits on abortion. The abortion battle will now move to the ballot box in each state.
But don’t fall for the deceptively appealing belief that this battle will be limited to the political arena. According to a recent Harvard Harris poll, 72% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal, or legal only with restrictions. The Left is well aware that a majority of states will pass at least some abortion restrictions in the coming months. On this issue, democracy is not their friend.
So, the Left is employing an autocratic means to impose its will – “woke capitalism,” sometimes referred to as “stakeholder capitalism.” These terms sound compelling, even virtuous, but each is a ruse to conceal the Left’s disdain for the inconvenience of real democracy.
Woke capitalism attempts to reorient modern corporations from their traditional responsibility to generate returns for investors to a new mission of supporting leftist political activism. The Left has utilized this approach when advancing radical environmental policies, opposing Georgia’s voter-fraud protections, or challenging Florida’s law restricting instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation through the third grade.
Now the Left is employing woke capitalism to advance its position on abortion. According to the CEO of Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider, the Number One goal post-Dobbs is “to get women where they need to be to access abortion.” President Biden has signed an executive order pushing back against potential state efforts to limit a woman’s ability to cross state lines for an abortion.
Biden’s executive order would protect the efforts of at least 60 U.S. corporations that have announced abortion travel benefits for employees unable to get abortions where they reside.
The monies to pay for these costs could otherwise be used to reduce operating expenses (increasing investors’ returns) or to pay dividends. These woke CEOs are not using their own money to fund this perk – they are using their investors’ monies to advance policies that these investors may well oppose. This is woke capitalism’s cornerstone: using other peoples’ resources to advance political goals.
The list of companies providing such abortion benefits is not limited to those associated with the far Left, such as Starbucks, Patagonia, Google, Amazon, CNN, the New York Times, or the irreparably woke Disney. It also includes companies such as Kroger, Dick’s Sporting Goods, CVS drugstores, Mastercard, and Target.
Keep these names in mind when you shop – and when you invest.
You may be unaware, though, that you have invested in these companies because your shares sit in a pension fund, mutual fund, 401k plan, or other investment product managed by fiduciaries tasked with prudently investing your money – not supporting some political agenda. But major financial firms such as BlackRock, State Street, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America have all joined the abortion perks bandwagon, and they are unlikely to object when companies divert corporate assets on behalf of causes that they also support.
Woke CEOs claim that these policies benefit their businesses because they meet employees’ needs. But will they provide comparable benefits to employees facing crisis pregnancies who make the alternative choice – the choice for life? How about travel benefits for visiting crisis pregnancy centers if none are accessible where the employee resides, perhaps because they’ve been vandalized or firebombed?
It’s striking that companies like Amazon and Starbucks, which claim to regard employees as “stakeholders,” are determined not to offend their workforce when it comes to abortion access but will risk offending those same employees by resisting their efforts to unionize. Perhaps these woke CEOs are actually more concerned about offending pro-abortion activists than supporting their workers.
The bottom line: conservative Americans can no longer conduct business as usual. The radical Left now controls many of the companies and investment firms that we’ve trusted in the past.
On the plus side, however, the free market will self-correct over time, rewarding investors who choose companies focused on profits rather than politics. In the meantime, be careful where you shop – and be very careful where and with whom you invest.
Andy Puzder was chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants for more than 16 years, following a career as an attorney. He is currently executive chairman at 2ndVote Value Investments, Inc. and a Senior Fellow at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy.