In the wake of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Chicago fired off hundreds of letters Monday to Fortune 500 CEOs in states facing abortion bans, pitching the city as a more welcoming location for their businesses.
The letter, which was signed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other civic leaders, was mailed to about 300 CEOs in 25 states that are enacting trigger bans, restricting access and criminalizing abortion. It warns that employees in those states “may suffer” and see their lives upended as a result of the decision to end the 50-year-old constitutional right.
“As you weigh the repercussions facing your employees, customers and vendors, we welcome the opportunity to highlight the ways in which Chicago remains a welcoming city for all,” the letter states.
World Business Chicago, the city’s public-private economic development arm, launched the letter-writing campaign. It is buying a full-page ad this week in the Wall Street Journal featuring a copy of the letter, which was also signed by Michael Fassnacht, president and CEO of World Business Chicago, and Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments and vice chair of the economic development agency.
The Supreme Court decision Friday struck down the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which along with the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, held abortion was protected by the 14th Amendment until a fetus was viable outside the womb. With abortion no longer a constitutional right, states are free to enact their own standards, with a wave of restrictions and outright bans expected to severely restrict access for many women.
The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research organization that supports reproductive rights, projects 26 states are “certain or likely to attempt to ban abortion” following the Supreme Court ruling, including such longtime Illinois corporate rivals as Texas, Florida, Arizona, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Indiana.
Illinois is among about a dozen states classified as “protective” of abortion rights by the Guttmacher Institute. Current state regulations allow for abortion until fetal viability at 24 to 26 weeks of pregnancy, with state Medicaid and private health insurance plans required to cover the procedure.
On Friday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker called for a special legislative session this summer to increase legal protections for providers and potentially expand the ranks of medical professionals allowed to perform abortions as Illinois prepares for an expected influx of out-of-state patients.
World Business Chicago is unabashedly promoting a values proposition as states competing with Illinois for corporate headquarters rush to ban abortion, despite polls that show the majority of Americans do not support overturning Roe v. Wade.
“When companies or capital or talent makes a decision about where to start a career, where to relocate or expand, you have to take into consideration the values that a city and a state has, and it has to be part of the site selection decision,” Fassnacht said. “It’s not just always about low taxes, it is the value and the climate that your employees are living in.”
Last week, the Chicago area suffered its latest corporate blow when billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin announced he was moving Citadel’s headquarters to Miami. Earlier this month, Caterpillar announced it would relocate its headquarters from north suburban Deerfield to Irving, Texas, outside Dallas.
Fassnacht declined to comment on the impending moves, calling on employees of companies considering relocation to states with more restrictive abortion laws to speak up for themselves.
“I encourage employees working for companies who are contemplating where to build their business or relocate, to raise their voice and make sure that their CEOs know about their feelings, that they might feel uncomfortable moving to one of these states that does not protect your rights,” Fassnacht said.
It is not the first time World Business Chicago has attempted to leverage the fallout from controversial legislation to lure businesses to relocate. In April, the agency took out full-page newspaper ads in Florida, Texas and Arizona touting Chicago’s inclusivity, as those states enacted legislation targeting the LGBTQ+ community, such as the Florida education law critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”
Last September, World Business Chicago took out a full-page ad in the Sunday Dallas Morning News inviting businesses to head north after Texas passed restrictive abortion and voting legislation.
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June 27, 2022 at 08:35PM