The fashion and beauty worlds, and much of corporate America, immediately spoke out Friday against the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years.
Companies and executives in recent years have been thrust into the political arena to comment on everything from gun violence to the #MeToo movement, and on Friday did the same with the Supreme Court’s ruling, a decision that will lead to near total bans on the procedure in about half of U.S. states.
Netflix, Disney, Paramount, UTA and other Hollywood companies vowed to cover abortion travel expenses for their employees. Levi’s, Gap, Estée Lauder and Condé Nast made similar statements.
“I am completely in shock at the state of this country,” said designer Prabal Gurung, who has put Planned Parenthood and women’s rights front and center on his runways. “At this moment, where we are as a nation tells a lot about who we are as people. Our lack of engagement in our political system, a flawed one but the only one we have, resulted in an extremely dangerous leader like [Donald] Trump in a position of power to appoint these conservative judges. They now have overturned Roe and moved this nation and thus the entire world decades back,” he said.
“And if we think it’s going to end here, then sadly, we are mistaken and delusional. I don’t think it would be a stretch of the imagination to say conservatives are working on the grassroots level to invalidate other fundamental rights, including LGBTQ rights, same-sex marriage rights and rights to contraception, amongst many others.…The fashion industry that profits off of women can no longer stay quiet. No longer can this industry with immense power to start a dialogue, a cultural revolution and create a long-lasting impact, be apathetic, ‘feel helpless,’ or be quiet.
“In this day and age of social media, if you have even just one follower, you have an audience and a platform. It is our moral obligation and duty, as part of this fashion industry, to have the conversation, amplify it further and consistently and relentlessly move this conversation forward,” he said.
Designer Josie Natori said, “This decision is such a setback and [is a] stark contrast to all the progress women have made in the last half century. I believe in the sanctity of life but uphold strongly the human rights of women to decide over their own bodies.”
Makeup artist Bobbi Brown, founder of Jones Road Beauty, agreed: “I’m outraged. I’m shocked. I’m heartbroken. But, I’m also fired up. This is not the time to be sad or cynical. We have to channel our anger into action and do something. Today, I’m going to conjure up my best ‘inner-Michelle Obama’ and follow her advice: get involved, help others and reach out in support of organizations like Planned Parenthood and The United States of Women. Together, we can use our collective power and resources to reshape the future.”
Nyakio Grieco, founder of Thirteen Lune, a marketplace for Black- and Brown-owned beauty brands, said: “Guns officially have more rights than our daughters. As we experience the devastating consequences for women, especially in marginalized communities, we need to fear the snowball effect of this decision and its impact on basic civil rights. We might feel helpless in this moment of despair, but our power stands in voting and activism both at the local and federal level.
“My daughter will be turning 18 just before our next election. She and her generation will need to undo the harm done by those that came before them, and to make sure the right leaders are in place to protect our human rights. Thirteen Lune will always provide safe reproductive care options for employees.”
Los Angeles designer Clare Vivier has made women’s issues central to her business, vocally supporting gun control and reproductive rights, raising funds for the Center for Reproductive Rights and other organizations. On Thursday, she launched a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Egalite pour les femmes.”
“My heart is broken today. We lost a fundamental right. We moved in the wrong direction, not because it is the will of the people but because of a small group of conservative activist judges, willing to disregard precedent,” she said.
Designer Phillip Lim agreed: “Let’s be clear, the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is not the will of the majority of Americans. It is the perverse gaming of a now politicized judicial body of government. I am sickened to the realization that a woman’s right to choose was instantly taken away by a majority conservative, religious-leaning SCOTUS based on the technicalities of legal language over the complexities and nuance of her life.
“This is a dangerous blow to the advancement of human rights and a continued assault on the most vulnerable populations of our society,” added Lim, who has been outspoken about anti-Asian hate crimes and other political issues, and recently partnered with the AAPI Victory Fund to launch the #OurVote brand.
Nicole Miller said: “It’s quite a setback for women and hopefully voters will be able to turn this around. It’s going back to the Dark Ages and [is] quite scary.”
Lela Rose said: “Women’s equality is women’s reproductive rights. There can be no disillusionment about that. Obviously, we have a long road ahead and a lot of serious work to do. Time to get to work.”
While some of the large fashion and retail companies contacted by WWD were still formulating their response to the landmark decision — or deciding whether to weigh in at all — others were ready with a reply.
Companies are on the front lines of connecting employees with insurance to cover health care costs and some stressed that even if employees lived in states without access to abortion, they could access services elsewhere.
Levi Strauss & Co., which prides itself with being on the forefront of many social issues, said: “We stand strongly against any actions that hinder the health and well-being of our employees, which means opposing any steps to restrict access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion. Protection of reproductive rights is a critical business issue impacting our workforce, our economy and progress toward gender and racial equity. Given what is at stake, business leaders need to make their voices heard and act to protect the health and well-being of our employees.”
Levi’s said it was “continuing to ensure our employees can get the care they need regardless of where they live and support the reproductive health organizations on the front lines of this issue.”
The denim giant’s foundation is also giving grants to the Center for Reproductive Rights as well as organizations directly assisting impacted individuals and communities, including Afiya Center and ARC-Southeast.
In a post on its website, Gap Inc. said “a strong workforce starts with the health and well-being of all our employees — 76 percent of whom are women. At a recent employee event, we shared with our teams the wide range of mental health and family planning benefits we offer — because we know it is important to support our employees, regardless of whether, how or when they decide to start a family.”
“Some of those benefits include coverage of adoptions, surrogacy, fertility treatments, paid parental leave, contraception and abortion,” the company said. “Any employee covered under Gap Inc.’s UnitedHealthcare plans can access our benefits in any state, either that they reside in or travel to, now or in the future. We are committed to supporting all employees through these important life decisions — no matter where they live or which path they take.”
In a statement, Capri Holdings Ltd. said, “Advancing gender equality and empowering women is core to Capri’s values. More than 75 percent of our U.S. employee population are women. In light of the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, we have expanded our reproductive rights benefits in the U.S. to support women in obtaining abortion services not available in their home state. We are proud to take this important step in support of our female employees.”
The Estée Lauder Cos. said: “As a company, we provide comprehensive benefits to our full-time benefits-eligible and part-time benefits-enrolled employees that enable them to make personal health decisions. These benefits extend to procedures related to women’s reproductive health, and we will now include coverage of travel and lodging necessary to access reproductive health care in the United States that may not be easily accessible or locally available to employees and their dependents enrolled in ELC’s medical plan.”
Unilever U.S. said in a statement, “We are committed to providing our employees with comprehensive reproductive health care benefits, and we cover travel costs for employees and dependents if care is no longer available in their home states. In support of the communities we serve, we are joining more than 100 other businesses in the Don’t Ban Equality coalition, adding our voice to stand for policies that promote people’s access to quality health care, independence and [the] ability to fully succeed in the workplace. We will continue to closely monitor the impacts of the Supreme Court’s decision.”
Ralph Lauren Corp. said: “We will continue to respect the right to personal choice when making individual health care decisions. With this in mind, we will continue to support those seeking reproductive health care services, including covering costs associated with travel for employees seeking care out-of-state, as we do for a range of other health care services already — from surrogacy to cancer care.”
And Victoria’s Secret & Co. said: “As a company committed to being an advocate for women and championing their journeys, we believe a woman’s right to self-determination is fundamental. When women make decisions about their lives for themselves, they are able to participate fully and equally in society, families and communities grow stronger, cultures grow richer and the trajectory of the world bends toward equality. For those reasons VS & Co. supports a woman’s right to choose, including equal access to safe reproductive and abortion care provided by medical professionals. We support choice, because we believe in women and trust them to make decisions that are right for them.”
Lauren Hobart, president and chief executive officer of Dick’s Sporting Goods, posted her company’s action on Instagram: “Today, the Supreme Court announced a decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, removing the federal right to an abortion and leaving the decision up to each state. While we do not know what decision each state will make in response to this ruling, we at Dick’s Sporting Goods are prepared to ensure that all of our teammates have consistent and safe access to the benefits we provide, regardless of the state in which they live. In response to today’s ruling, we are announcing that if a state one of our teammates lives in restricts access to abortion, Dick’s Sporting Goods will provide up to $4,000 in travel expense reimbursement to travel to the nearest location where that care is legally available. This benefit will be provided to any teammate, spouse or dependent enrolled in our medical plan, along with one support person.”
Both J.Crew and Madewell signed the Don’t Ban Equality statement, alongside dozens of other companies, and committed to providing their associates equal access to healthcare no matter where they live. Libby Wadle, CEO of J.Crew Group, said as part of a LinkedIn post, “We recognize and respect this is a deeply sensitive, personal issue, and not all of us share the same view. However, we also recognize the ruling poses a risk to the health, independence and economic stability of all.”
And URBN (comprised of Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Free People, BHLDN, Terrain, FP Movement and Nuuly) announced a new company-wide reproductive healthcare policy that covers travel benefits for employees or dependents enrolled in the company’s health plan.
Media organizations also chimed in.
Roger Lynch, CEO of Condé Nast, sent a note to staff, including the following: “To do all we can to protect access to health care, we have made enhancements to our U.S. health benefits to assist covered employees and their covered dependents in obtaining access to reproductive care regardless of where they reside. Employees who need abortion, infertility or gender-affirming services who cannot obtain that care locally are now eligible for reimbursement on travel and lodging.”
He also urged the company’s editorial brands, which include Vogue, The New Yorker, GQ and Vanity Fair, to use their channels. “The most powerful way for us to respond to what’s happening right now is through our brands and the distinctive editorial lenses with which they’re covering today’s news and the effect it will have on society. Our values are clear in the content and journalism we produce. Our Condé Code states that we never stop looking for ways to revolutionize our culture and improve the ways our audiences experience the world. I have no doubt that we will continue to deliver on that promise and meet the moment.”
In the last five years, the fashion industry has largely supported Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights. In 2017, The Council of Fashion Designers of America joined forces with the organization to launch Fashion Stands With Planned Parenthood, an initiative that raised awareness and funds during New York Fashion Week. A special pin was created, and 40 designers and brands participated in the initiative, including Gurung, Burch, Diane von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera, Cushnie et Ochs, Public School, Jonathan Simkhai, Kate Spade New York, Rosetta Getty, Proenza Schouler, Mara Hoffman, Narciso Rodriguez, Milly and Zac Posen.
Reaction to the news reverberated globally.
At Paris Men’s Fashion Week, Colm Dillane, founder and creative director of KidSuper, said, “What time do we live in? I cannot believe that’s even possible to do. Also, the people that that affects is only poor people, which is why it’s so stupid, because if you’re rich, you’re flying somewhere else. So I don’t even understand what is the logic for that to be approved? Where’s the argument there? Because that’s not going to stop anything; it’s not going to stop abortions. Rich people get abortions whenever they want. They always have.”
“What a huge disappointment. We’re all gonna have to get to work on this,” said Rick Owens.
“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court launched a devastating attack on women’s freedom. Shame on you,” Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele posted on his Instagram, alongside a look from his 2020 Cruise collection, a jacket emblazoned with the words, “My Body My Choice.”
Gucci’s stance on supporting women’s reproductive rights includes travel reimbursement for any U.S. employee who needs access to health care not available in their home state. The company is also matching Gucci America employee donations to Planned Parenthood, following donations it has made since 2013 through its Chime for Change project to International Planned Parenthood Foundation projects globally.
The U.S. court’s ruling puts the decision about abortion in the states’ hands, highlighting the nation’s stark political divide, with abortion severely restricted or banned in many red states, including some with laws to be triggered after the decision such as Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee, and freely available in most blue states, including California and New York.
The blockbuster ruling follows a leaked draft that came out in May, setting off debate that had President Joe Biden scrambling to see if he could enact an executive order protecting the right, and several members of the Congressional Black Caucus urging the president to declare a state of emergency, suggesting the ruling will disproportionately put Black lives at risk.
The decision is one of the legacies of former President Donald Trump, who appointed three justices who were in the majority to overrule Roe. In addition, Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurrent opinion laid out a vision that could open the door to overturning same-sex marriage, contraception and other rights.
A recent NBC poll found 63 percent of Americans supported not overturning Roe v. Wade, and the reaction to the ruling was dramatic, with supporters and protesters meeting on the steps of the Supreme Court and in the streets around the country, and Biden addressing the nation on Friday afternoon.
“It’s a sad day for the court and the country,” Biden said from the White House. “With Roe gone, the health and life of women in this nation are now at risk,” he added, explaining that women could now be forced to bear their rapist’s child. “With your vote, you can have the final word. This is not over,” Biden concluded, urging voting in the midterms to elect pro-choice Congressional candidates, who could act to restore reproductive rights.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said, “I’m spitting mad over this. We have six extremist justices on the U.S. Supreme Court who have decided their world and religious views should be imposed on the rest of America. This is not what America wants, and in a democracy, on this issue, the Supreme Court does not get the last word, the people do. And we are going to fight back.”
The decision was based on the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and concerned a 2018 law enacted by the Republican majority Mississippi Legislature banning abortion if “the probably gestational age of the unborn human” was determined to be more than 15 weeks. Created to challenge Roe, the statute included narrow exceptions for medical emergencies.
Mississippi state’s only abortion clinic sued, saying it ran afoul of Roe v. Wade and its follow-up Planned Parenthood v. Casey. But the Supreme Court ruled with the state.
The Roe ruling was decided in 1973, establishing a framework for abortion regulation based on pregnancy trimesters, protecting women’s health and choice in the first and second, and allowing states to decide in the third. In 1992, the court discarded that framework, but retained that women have a constitutional right to terminate their pregnancies until fetal viability.