The enthusiasm of corporations around abortion rights recalls Karl Marx’s beliefs in The Communist Manifesto: The “bourgeoisie,” or the economic elite in industrialized societies, “has torn away from the family its sentimental veil and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.” In other words, capitalism is the bane of family life.
While Marx was horrifyingly wrong about many things, he did accurately call out industrialization’s immediate ill effects—such as long hours, poor living conditions, and urban prostitution, all of which were felt acutely by working-class women and children.
However, Marx misidentified the cause of such problems (and his proposed “solutions” have proven worse than the problems themselves). These issues sprung from the lack of basic quality-of-life regulations during the early stages of the industrial revolution, not from the otherwise domestically-minded bourgeoisie being committed to diluting family life. Yet, as historian Christopher Lasch pointed out, once material wealth becomes the sole measure of success, familial destruction looms—whether or not anyone intends it.
Contemporary feminism accurately embodies this phenomenon. Consider a 1975 conversation between Betty Friedan and the French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir. When Friedan proposed offering women a minimum wage for domestic work, Beauvoir objected, saying that such an offer would reinforce gender roles.
To this, Friedan argued that wives who have labored in the home for years should be rewarded for it. Beauvoir responded that women should not be given the choice of staying home to raise children at all “because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one. It is a way of forcing women in a certain direction.”
Despite their apparent disagreements, Friedan and de Beauvoir are two sides of the same coin. Having accepted the notion that all labor ought to be valued in monetary terms, Friedan would have been justified in concurring with de Beauvoir. After all, isn’t a career more lucrative? Unless one forces all women to seek economic gain outside of the home, they will voluntarily revive “gender stereotypes.”
Friedan and de Beauvoir’s work shows why corporations today are overwhelmingly pro-abortion. Being themselves products of the sexual revolution and sex-based affirmative action, modern businesses rely heavily on female employees. Many businesses are now female-led. As of 2022, close to half (47 percent) of the U.S. workforce is female. Melissa Hobley, dating app OKCupid’s global chief marketing officer, says that “highly visible, highly competitive industries like tech, law, finance … are all fighting after female talent.”
The introduction of a critical mass of women into the labor market made it all but impossible to insulate from family life the market’s tendency to put a price tag on everything. Workplaces must promote the acquisition and retention of career women, because otherwise, their businesses will falter.
“Public policies that restrict reproductive care are bad for business,” said Don’t Ban Equality, a 1,000-strong coalition of abortion-friendly businesses. “They impair a company’s ability to build robust workforce pipelines [and] to recruit top talent across states.” After all, 65 percent of college-educated workers are allegedly deterred from taking a job in states with stringent abortion laws.
The very ability to conceive children diverts a woman’s energies away from work and into the home. Abortion, as a form of contraception, breaches the final barrier keeping her from the workplace. In other words, “business” is the real concern, not the wellbeing of women.
If corporations truly prioritized women, they would not have rolled back benefits associated with having children, such as paid maternity leave (which while offered by 53 percent of U.S. employers in 2020, dropped to 35 percent in 2022). Viewed in light of such trends, corporate virtue-signaling in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade disguises a crude attempt to cut down wellness-related expenditures. What better way to avoid paying for maternity leave, family health insurance, and other perks than to make sure that one’s employees never have children?
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This article was originally commissioned to the author by Americans United for Life.