When it comes to the recent Texas abortion ruling, it’s hard to find small businesses who are willing to take a public stand on the issue — even more so to find small ventures that are actually taking action.
Large corporations that have spoken out on other social justice issues such as voting rights and Black Lives Matter have also stayed noticeably silent on the law, which passed earlier this month and bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The few exceptions include Bumble, Lyft, Uber and a handful of other companies.
After reaching out to dozens of Texas-based, women-owned startups and small businesses, The Story Exchange found just one small business willing to speak up — Bospar, which isn’t even technically based in Texas (it’s in the San Francisco Bay Area) but has several staffers in the state.
The 60-employee company, which bills itself as a “politely pushy” boutique tech public relations firm and counts PayPal and Logitech among its clients, is offering free relocation to six workers based in the Lone Star State.
“My particular specialty is helping companies do branding, and a brand is a way a company behaves,” said co-founder Chris Boehlke. “You could put all the words out there you want that you think are pretty, but the bottom line is, what you do is what you are.”
She added, “This seemed like the most straightforward thing for those of our staffers who live in Texas — we would pay to get them out of there if they wanted.”
The firm, founded in 2015, is willing to pay up to $10,000 per employee for moving expenses. So far, Boehlke said, no one has taken them up on the opportunity. But one employee based in Austin echoed the sentiments of many workers who are grappling with the law.
“Companies and businesses with employees in Texas have a choice right now: offer employees control of their own reproductive health or risk them leaving,” said Sarah Freeman, a senior account executive for Bospar. “Right now, my friends in their 20s and 30s are asking themselves, ‘Should I leave Texas?’”
The PR firm joins bigger male-led startups taking a stand: there’s Houston-based chemicals company Solugen Inc., which will open a new facility out of the state, and Austin-based software company QuestionPro, whose CEO announced that the company would cover out-of-state abortion services for its employees.
Software giant Salesforce also announced in the last two days that it would offer to relocate employees and their families because of the highly restrictive law, which was passed by the Republican-controlled state Legislature and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott.
The law sparked swift outrage, with critics pointing out the fact that many women don’t even know they’re pregnant after six weeks. The legislation also allows private residents to sue anyone who helps a woman get an abortion.
Boehlke, who acknowledged that companies, especially those with boards of directors, don’t have an easy path for taking stances on controversial issues, remained firm that she would do the same thing for employees if a similar ban gets enacted in another state.
“It might seem minor that one state put these rules in place, but a huge amount of people worked for a huge number of years for women’s rights, and we can’t just take things for granted,” she said. “We can’t get complacent.”