ST. LOUIS — About a dozen businesses across Missouri are taking a public stand against the state’s abortion ban, joining a movement nationwide by companies to make their views known to potential employees and customers.
The area businesses have joined a new effort by Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri to support abortion access, reduce the procedure’s social stigma and, perhaps, pressure political leaders at the same time.
Twelve businesses have signed on to the Brands Against Bans campaign, which kicks off Friday night with a yoga class and community fair at Brick City Yoga in the Benton Park West neighborhood of St. Louis.
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“Those in marginalized communities are often the ones that don’t have a voice to speak up, and as a business owner, I do have a voice,” said Kate Ewing, owner of Brick City Yoga. “I wanted to use our business platform as a way to speak for a broader community that we know will be impacted by these bans and will need support.”
The U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion. Since then, a dozen states have severely restricted the procedure, including Missouri, which banned it except in cases of a medical emergency.
Businesses across the country have since taken public stances. More than 100 companies such as Walt Disney Co., Nike Inc., Uber and Microsoft Corp. have pledged to help employees travel to other states for abortion care or extend other reproductive health benefits.
Missouri businesses participating in the Planned Parenthood campaign include The Wandering Sidecar Bar Co., Culture Flock, STL-Style, Millennial Assistants, C&K Cleaning Krew, Own Your Pride, Hedy & Hopp, Church Productions, Golden Gems, and Lone Wolf Welding & Services. The North American arm of the worldwide cosmetics company Lush also joined the campaign.
Businesses can participate in a number of ways: hosting an event that raises money for Planned Parenthood, such as Brick City Yoga’s class and fair from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday; collaborating on a product like a T-shirt; hosting an educational event; or posting information on their social media channels.
The campaign is an effort to open up the conversation around abortion, normalize it as a health care service and encourage abortion-rights supporters to shop their minds, said Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, vice president of strategy and communications for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.
Supporters have been asking where they should take their purchases, she said.
“They want to use the power of their wallet to ensure that where they are spending their money is with businesses and companies that align with their values,” Lee-Gilmore said.
Businesses are also concerned about their ability to hire new talent and maintain their workforce.
After Indiana became the most recent state to ban abortion, the pharmaceutical company Eli Lily — with more than 10,000 employees in Indianapolis — told NPR that the company is concerned the law will hinder its ability to attract employees and that any future growth will be outside of Indiana.
At least one area anti-abortion group, however, warned businesses against signing on.
“No one who takes a hard look at the actual facts surrounding abortion believes that this is good for women or that this is actually ‘health care,’” Brian Westbrook, the executive director of the anti-abortion nonprofit Coalition Life, said in an email. “Companies that make the mistake of supporting this initiative are on the wrong side of history and will suffer from the real public sentiment.”
Ewing, the yoga studio owner, said she knows not all her customers are going to agree with her support and she may even lose some business or face backlash, but it’s more important to her to use her resources to support a cause she believes in.
“What we are seeing is overwhelming support, and our student base and our community bases has supported and appreciated that we are vocal on where we stand,” she said, “and they feel good about spending money on a place that aligns with their values too.”