Clarity of thought and expression about moral issues is not a core competency of CEOs.
If anyone had any doubt, look no further than the “historic” pro-abortion statement by nearly 200 CEOs that ran in a full-page ad in The New York Times. It is a festival of absurdity and euphemism, an exercise in perverse virtue-signaling to a progressive audience that believes that maintaining one of the most permissive pro-abortion regimes in the developed world is a virtue.
The CEOs define abortion as “equality” (“Don’t Ban Equality”) and, of course, refer to it as “comprehensive reproductive care,” the ubiquitous phrase that has the advantage of sounding like the opposite of what it’s describing.
The CEOs contend that abortion is central to their businesses, which might be true if all of their companies had the same business model as Planned Parenthood. But Bloomberg L.P., Amalgamated Bank and H&M, to name three of the companies whose CEOs signed the ad, are hardly dependent on abortion to thrive.
The old saw was, “What’s good for General Motors is good for America.” Now, according to top CEOs, what’s good for abortion is good for American business. They seem to consider abortion a crucial component of GDP just like personal consumption, business investment, government spending and net exports.
They argue that “equality in the workplace” is an important business issue, and it is impossible to achieve without unrestricted access to abortion. Any restriction “threatens the health, independence and economic stability of our employees and customers.”
The idea that abortion is necessary for the health of women is one of the most misleading pro-abortion cliches. Comprehensive data from Florida last year shows that only a small percentage involve a threat to the mother’s life or health, and pro-life laws account for such cases — even the sweeping Alabama law has a health exception.
The contention that restrictions put “the economy at risk” is nonsensical. Are we supposed to believe that the reduction of the abortion rate in the U.S. from its high in 1980 of 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age to its post-Roe v. Wade low of 14.6 as of 2014 has been a calamity for corporate America?
By this standard, Utah must be a terrible place to do business since its abortion rate is so low, and the District of Columbia an enticing place to do business since its abortion rate is so high. (To the contrary, Forbes ranks Utah as the second-best state for business in the country.)
The implication is that these CEOs prefer that their employees and customers not become mothers, or if they are mothers, not have more children. It apparently hasn’t occurred to them that unborn children will grow up to buy their products or perhaps work for their firms one day.
The CEO ad is another sign that the debate over abortion has entered a new phase. It isn’t enough anymore to say that abortion should be safe, legal and rare, the old Bill Clinton formulation, because that implies a moral disapproval. Now, abortion is a positive good.
Pro-life laws will have to prevail against this inflamed pro-abortion sentiment — and the swath of big business that shares it.
Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.