Seven female-founded brands are taking a vocal stand for reproductive rights in a full-page ad in The New York Times today, encouraging other brands to do the same.
The founders of the seven brands—Clary Collection, Cora, Dame, Fur, LOOM, Sustain Natural and Thinx—all signed the letter, which starts with the capitalized proclamation “Abortion is:” and finishes the fill-in-the-blank with a number of completions: “A human right. A constitutional right. A personal choice. Health care. Lifesaving. Gender equality. Owning your own body. Not a crime. Not up for debate.”
The ad continued, encouraging other brands—and in particular, female business leaders—to be vocal in their support of reproductive and abortion rights for women.
“It’s time for corporate America to speak up,” the letter continued. “As women, and business leaders, we support the right to choose today and every day. For too long, corporate America has largely been silent on speaking up for sexual and reproductive health and rights. That must change. Today, we loudly and boldly declare that we will not be silent in defense of fundamental human rights and we challenge our peers in the business community to do the same. Now is the time to speak up. Together, we can defeat these unconstitutional attacks on our rights.”
The decision to place the ad in the Times comes in response to the abortion restrictions that have recently been signed into law in Georgia and Alabama, in particular, which saw Governor Kay Ivey sign a near-complete ban on abortion in the state without exceptions for rape or incest. The only exception is if the mother’s life is at risk.
Meika Hollender, co-founder and CEO of Sustain Natural, a line of natural and organic condoms and lubricants, said she was inspired to do something beyond making a monetary donation to make a statement about the laws that had been passed. Sustain has also donated $10,000 to The Yellowhammer Fund, which helps provide funding to women in Alabama who are seeking medical care and treatment at one of the state’s three remaining abortion clinics.
“We’re always trying to figure out how to leverage voice and resources to take a stand and actually make an impact,” she told Adweek. “I continued to see other female CEOs starting to speak out,and how close to home this was hitting for so many of us. I haven’t, but so many leaders have had abortions, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without access.”
“I really wanted to call on all female CEOs to support the women on which they depend on,” she added. “We need to have their backs. They’re our customers, our communities.”
Hollender’s first call was to her friend Maria Molland, CEO of Thinx, which creates period-proof underwear. Within 48 hours, the two women had reached out to a number of other female business leaders, and five additional founders joined in signing the open letter.
“We must raise our voice to ensure our own human rights are protected because we know that when states interfere in the personal medical decisions of a woman—the ultimate violation of her right to privacy and bodily sovereignty—women are oppressed and unequal,” said Molly Hayward, founder of Cora, which creates natural and organic body care, bladder leak and period products, in a statement. “We proudly stand now to speak out against this radical and regressive legislation.”
Not all leaders Hollender connected with ended up signing their names to the letter, though she says she’s already heard regret expressed from at least one of those who abstained following the letter’s publication this morning.
“It’s challenging for businesses and business leaders to touch this issue, but I think that while that makes sense and has made sense in the past, if you’re selling lingerie, maybe you don’t want to associate with reproductive health,” said Hollender. “But I think now too much is at stake. It is so critical.”
Hollender added that the issue is particularly poignant for these female founders given the difference that the freedom to make their own choices about their reproductive health made in their own lives and careers.
She said, “We will never be able to achieve what most of us are seeking—gender equality—if these types of laws are in place unless we take a stand and we try to prevent these bans from going into place.”