Brands have a duty to defend women’s rights as Roe v Wade is canceled

Roe v Wade isn’t just an American issue, nor can brands assume it doesn’t affect them. Now is the time to defend the rights of your workers and your consumers.

I’m exhausted. I’m scared. I’m mostly furious. When women marched against Trump early in his presidency, we were told not to worry. Yes, the man is a joke, but he won’t get a second term and when he’s gone, it’ll be over. But this is not the case. It’s only just begun.

It was his appointment of three justices to the United States Supreme Court that tipped the scales and enabled the overturning of Roe v Wade, the court’s previous ruling guaranteeing the right to abortion. This new decision will have huge ramifications, not just in the United States but, I suspect, far beyond. The forces of misogyny will take over the judgment and, emboldened, they will think about what other women’s rights they can abolish.

Why am I talking about it in a marketing post? Well, I’m counting on brands to step up and actively support their female employees and take a stand. I’m particularly looking at all the brands that have made activations for International Women’s Day: it’s time to show your support for women on days other than March 8.

We should forge a world in which our children and theirs enjoy more rights and freedoms, not less

Friday’s decision won’t end abortion in the United States — as long as there are unwanted pregnancies, there will be abortions — but it will end access to safe and legal abortion in many many states; Missouri is the first to blithely declare abortion illegal a few hours later. Clandestine abortions will return, women will die, women will suffer physical and psychological damage, women will be forced to have children they do not want and cannot care for. And, to be clear, it will be poor women who will suffer the most. It is a disaster.

I’m lucky: I never had an unplanned pregnancy, I never had an abortion. I know many women who have thought about it. They didn’t do it lightly and not all of them got terminated. But they all had a choice.

Actions you can take

I know abortion is an emotional issue. I wish no woman had to have one. I would prefer that there was reliable contraception available to everyone. I would prefer there was no rape. I would prefer that people not live in poverty. But I am not the queen of the world; I can’t do any of this.

There are, however, things brands can do that will make a real difference. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Disney, OkCupid, Lyft, Yelp and Patagonia are among those who have already taken action. Here are some things others can do:

  • Review your terms and conditions, especially health care and insurance coverage, especially for US workers, to ensure that women (your employees and the female partners of your male employees) can access to safe and legal services.
  • Make a public statement condemning this attack on women’s rights and prepare for a backlash, especially on social media. You will be criticized by anti-abortion activists, but now is the time to show some leadership.
  • Review your own policies on human, women’s and reproductive rights.
  • Review all your in-market content and content coming to market (especially those targeting women) from the perspective of this issue, and adjust or pause it if there is a risk of misinterpretation. This issue is likely to feature prominently in the upcoming US midterm elections, so think ahead.

The Supreme Court’s decision was based on its view that abortion was not contemplated by the Founding Fathers. Of course, those wealthy white men who kept women and slaves weren’t considering the combustion engine, penicillin or the internet either – but apparently it’s all safe. What I’m far from sure about is access to contraception, same-sex marriage, and even intermarriage.

It’s tempting to think of this as a uniquely American problem, but we know that the United States has a profound impact on the rest of the world. We must stand firm. We should not fight the battles for rights that our parents fought and thought they had won. We should forge a world in which our children and theirs enjoy more rights and freedoms, not less – rights fit for the 21st century, not those that take us back to the past.

Brands must play their part in this. Brands need to be on the right side of history.