Why did major Indiana companies stay silent on new abortion law—until it passed?

Eli Lilly and Co. (IBJ photo)

If Indiana’s biggest corporate citizens had wanted to publicly make their feelings known on their state’s plans to dramatically restrict abortion rights, they had plenty of time to do so.

On the same June day the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Indiana lawmakers indicated they would consider legislation to restrict abortion rights during their special session in July.

But two of Indiana’s largest companies, Eli Lilly and Co. and Cummins Inc., waited until after the Legislature and Gov. Eric Holcomb enacted a near total-ban on abortion on Friday to issue public statements opposing the measure the following day. Most other major employers, from Roche Diagnostics to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the NCAA, have remained silent.

On Saturday, Lilly issued a statement saying it found the new law so problematic that it would be forced to plan employment growth outside the state. The measure, which takes effect Sept. 15, bans nearly all abortions in the state but allows exceptions for rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies and to protect the health and life of the mother.

A Lilly spokeswoman declined to say whether the company had made its feelings known to lawmakers during a two-week special session to consider the issue. But in its public statement on Saturday Lilly warned that the new law could make it difficult for the company to attract diverse scientific, engineering and business talent to Indiana.

Cummins expressed similar worries. “We are deeply concerned about how this law impacts our people and impedes our ability to attract and retain a diverse workforce in Indiana – concerns that we have voiced to legislators,” the company said in a statement issued Saturday.

“As we continue to grow our footprint with a focus on selecting communities that align with our values and business goals,” the company added, “this law will be considered in our decision-making process.”

Cummins emphasized that it made its concerns known to legislative leaders and employees before and during the special session.

But the after-the-fact public statements have left some people wondering why the companies didn’t openly testify against the legislation during the special session if the potential impact on them is so great.

Some seasoned political observers said the companies likely weighed the risks, determined it wasn’t worth putting up a fight in full public view and opted to try private channels.

“The risk to them is to irritate a [government] body that [they] work with on a variety of other issues, and for no predictable payoff,” said Michael Leppert, a lecturer at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business and a former lobbyist.

Bill Oesterle, the co-founder and former CEO of Angie’s List who helped lead the corporate revolt against Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, said company executives were likely trying to effect change behind closed doors.

“If I had to guess, there were a lot of behind-the-scenes discussions going on,” Oesterle said. “It’s a delicate decision to act publicly while there’s still some chance you can affect the process privately.”

The backlash against Indiana’s new abortion law is decidedly less pronounced than the fallout from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, a 2015 Indiana law that led to immediate widespread condemnation from the NCAA as well as companies such as Anthem Inc.

Less than a week after RFRA was signed into law, lawmakers passed a “fix” specifying the law did not authorize discrimination against LGBT customers, employees and tenants.

But unlike the RFRA legislation, the debate over abortion rights is happening in roughly half of states across the country, Leppert says.

“The phenomenon that turned out to be RFRA was unique,” Leppert said. “Post-Dobbs, there are maybe 20 or 30 states where this [abortion] debate is going to be raging.”

And the contentious issue of where to draw the line when allowing abortions is a more nuanced discussion than the RFRA debate, which largely focused on equal rights.

“It’s one thing to say you’re for or against abortion, but in between is a whole spectrum of positions you can have,” Oesterle said. “That makes defining a single position much more complicated.”

Some business interests did speak out during the special legislative session.

The organizers of Gen Con, which held its annual tabletop gaming convention in Indianapolis as lawmakers debated the issue on the House and Senate floors, denounced Senate Bill 1, saying it would “have a direct impact on our team and our community, and we are committed to fighting for safety, tolerance, and justice in all the places we operate.”

It stopped short of saying it would relocate its convention—an annual event that draws more than 60,000 people to Indianapolis, making it one of the city’s largest events of the year.

The Indy Chamber urged lawmakers to pause their work on the abortion law to give more consideration to its impact on women and health care providers because the expedited legislative process was “at best, detrimental to Hoosiers, and at worst, reckless.”

Several hundred smaller companies in Indiana signed a petition, circulated by the American Civil Liberties Union, opposing the abortion ban.

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40 thoughts on “Why did major Indiana companies stay silent on new abortion law—until it passed?

    1. DH –
      It goes deeper than that.
      I’m sure Lilly has factored in additional insurance premiums from
      women having babies also. The high cost of birthing the baby in the
      hospital, over stays in the hospital, and additional future doctors appointments.

      Also the additional cost of contributing to the insurance plan when dependents are added on.

      Let’s not forget the paid maternity leave that Lilly offers, which probably is not
      cheap.

      And as you said, lost work time.

      ****Add all of that together into a financial cost benefit analysis, and it’s a
      no brainer. Much cheaper for a Lilly employee to abort.

    2. There is no penalty, for women or Doctors who are involved in an abortion. Their choice is still in tact. Maybe some woke type companies know this, and decided not to sound off. The lilly and Simon types say look here we are woke. I don’t care who works for either, but the IBJ should print this truth. Until then both sides especially the ignorant left will use it to their advantage when there isn’t an advantage to be had. The right also just stay slight knowing the truth, no enforcement, no penalty. The perfect compromise. A moral judgement law. The longer you don’t print this, the less journalistic integrity you have.

  1. The larger companies in Indiana only support ROI decisions….not social justice. Lilly and Cummins only care about bottom line transactions and Abortion didn’t affect their business. It will be interesting to see what happens to long maternity leave benefits at these companies…

    1. You nailed it, Cummins and Lilly are more worried about their female drones on maternity leave than the babies that are killed to support their profit margins.

    2. There is no penalty, for women or Doctors who are involved in an abortion. Their choice is still in tact. Maybe some woke type companies know this, and decided not to sound off. The lilly and Simon types say look here we are woke. I don’t care who works for either, but the IBJ should print this truth. Until then both sides especially the ignorant left will use it to their advantage when there isn’t an advantage to be had. The right also just stay slight knowing the truth, no enforcement, no penalty. The perfect compromise. A moral judgement law. The longer you don’t print this, the less journalistic integrity you have.

  2. Using their business position in the community to try and leverage their positions and create another political division of a social issue is not being community minded or being a good community partner to Indiana, who have and are providing these companies with incentives and growth opportunities.

    1. Like all corporations, Cummins and Lilly are worried about short term profit margins to support their stock prices. Maternity leave costs a lot of money. It costs even more money when the female drones leave the workforce entirely to take care of their children, since the big corporations need to train new drones to take the places of new mothers.

    2. There is no penalty, for women or Doctors who are involved in an abortion. Their choice is still in tact. Maybe some woke type companies know this, and decided not to sound off. The lilly and Simon types say look here we are woke. I don’t care who works for either, but the IBJ should print this truth. Until then both sides especially the ignorant left will use it to their advantage when there isn’t an advantage to be had. The right also just stay slight knowing the truth, no enforcement, no penalty. The perfect compromise. A moral judgement law. The longer you don’t print this, the less journalistic integrity you have.

  3. It is possible that these large corporations are conflicted about such decisions. On the one hand it may make it more difficult to recruit workers, although from a practical standpoint, at the wage and salary levels these corporations provide it would be relatively easy to visit neighboring Illinois if having an abortion was “your choice”…, on the other hand these corporations may prefer the more stable, conservative culture of Indiana where their corporate assets are not destroyed by rioters that are not prosecuted which has the effect of enabling them to continue rioting and destroying more property. Witness the exodus of corporate headquarters leaving Chicago to understand this perspective.

    1. What costs more to HR departments than anything else? Maternity leave for new mothers.

      It’s a completely self serving push by these corporations to preserve the numbers of female drones in the workforce.

    2. Hey Mark, for the record, both companies stated they’d be looking OUTSIDE the state for growth opportunities. I don’t know that “stable and conservative” are more important to them than “diverse and tolerant”.

    3. The whole Woke diversity thing is over blown and absolutely rediculious.
      Second, These corporations like to preach but don’t necessarily live what they preach.

      States that are just as conservative or even more conservative than Indiana
      have been knocking it out of the ball park economically. Not just with
      economic expansions and development, but also in population growth,
      And not by a little either.

  4. Good comments so far this morning; great! When the liberals wake up and get to Starbucks and read the New York Times before returning to their mother’s basements for a day of social justice “work,” we’ll probably see some nasty posts about this topic.

    Meanwhile, I was struck with something last evening while mulling over and being outraged by Lilly, Cummins, et al: the parallel between what slave owners in the mid-1850s were screaming about needing slavery to continue lest their profit be undermined…and how well that parallels Lilly, Cummins, et al., wanting unfettered recreational abortions to continue, lest their bottom lines be negatively impacted.

    I say recreational abortions because the new law allows for abortions resulting from rape, incest, ectopic pregnancies, etc…so in reality, the only abortions outlawed are the vast majority, which result from voluntary (hence, recreational) sex. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there are many known measures to prevent pregnancy if none is wanted.

    1. Bob P. Interesting statement and I’m stuck on your very last sentence. It’s ironic that you’re stating “known measures to prevent pregnancy”. Known measures indicate science and data was used. Yet it’s these same Republicans that it appears you support who continue to deny access to the “known measures to prevent pregnancy.” Such as readily available access to affordable birth control, sex education in schools, open discussions on sex and what that means. So yes a lot of known measures but these legislators never care about that and doubt right after this passed legislation they will lift any finger to support the prevention cause. If only they would just follow science. Maybe we wouldnt be here.

    2. And perhaps men should take responsibility for such measures…oh, no? Thanks white guy for your conservative and narrow share.

    3. Let’s not forget that nearly ALL of the Republicans who voted against the new abortion bill only did so because it ALLOWED EXCEPTIONS FOR RAPE and INCEST. They WANT to FORCE 10 year old CHILDREN who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest to carry that baby to term, even it was their own father who impregnated them. If you don’t find that disgusting and twisted, I don’t know what to say for you. THOSE PEOPLE should not be passing laws for the people of this state! NEVER!

    4. UH, Steve S…where did I say men have no responsibility to take precautions if they don’t want their “partner” to become pregnant?

      (You liberals spend so much time reading things that you hope other people would say…when they don’t and haven’t.)

      Yes, I am a conservative and caucasian. Why is that a problem for you?

    5. As Mark said, funny you mention known measures, Bob. Because lawmakers rejected teaching sex education and making funds available for more contraception in the special session.

      Why is this a problem? Turns out the kids these days know less and less about how to not get pregnant.

      “Indeed, a 2021 survey of youth risk behavior by the Indiana Department of Health found the portion of schools that report teaching students about sexual health topics has declined.

      In 2020, 41% of schools had teachers explain the efficacy of condoms to sixth through eighth graders, compared with 57% a decade earlier. Similarly, 69% of schools reported teachers teaching middle grades about how HIV and other STDs are spread, compared with 94% in 2010.”

      “The only requirement for schools that do teach human sexuality is that they teach abstinence as the single surefire way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.”

      What a waste of tax dollars.

      If you really cared about reducing abortions, wouldn’t you want kids to know how to not get someone pregnant? As opposed to abstinence-only, which gets pushed by religious folks pushing their beliefs (blissfully unaware that most of their kids are fooling around behind their backs) and old men suffering from low testosterone who have forgotten what it’s like to be a young pile of hormones attracted to someone else.

      And it’s lovely to say, oh, that’s the parent’s job. If you have any actual interest in breaking the cycle of teenage pregnancy and poverty, you don’t leave it all up to the parents because they’ve been failing since time immemorial. You teach actual sex education in schools. You make IUD’s available to teenagers. Abstinence-only doesn’t work. Unless you think that female friend from your high school days back in the 50’s or 60’s actually just on the spur of the moment moved to her uncle’s farm. Hate to spoil it for you, she didn’t.

      The behavior of the “pro-life” folks when given the chance to set policy has fully exposed them for the frauds they are. It’s not about the babies. It’s not about helping new moms. It’s all about imposing conservative Christian and Catholic values upon society. Sex is only for marriage. If you stray from that and get knocked up, they’re sinners and they should deal with the consequences. All anger, no grace, they’re the Pharisees for our age. They’re not pro-life, they’re just anti-abortion.

      https://in.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/3/23291096/indiana-sex-education-abortion-ban-abstinence-hiv-aids

    6. Evidently Steven has a problem with white guys. But I bet he will be the first one to scream racism.

    7. Steven S.

      Many states that are as conservative or even more conservative than Indiana have been
      getting almost all of the economic expansions projects, corporate headquarters
      to come to their states, and gaining the bulk of the population migration & growth.

      Nashville is one such city.

    8. There is no penalty, for women or Doctors who are involved in an abortion. Their choice is still in tact. Maybe some woke type companies know this, and decided not to sound off. The lilly and Simon types say look here we are woke. I don’t care who works for either, but the IBJ should print this truth. Until then both sides especially the ignorant left will use it to their advantage when there isn’t an advantage to be had. The right also just stay slight knowing the truth, no enforcement, no penalty. The perfect compromise. A moral judgement law. The longer you don’t print this, the less journalistic integrity you have.

  5. Do any of you know about recruiting talent and the dubious ( putting it mildly) reputation of our state. This unnecessary righteousness is keeping good people doing good work ( think of the hospitals, Riley for example) that seek the very best medical pros to help our kids (because they deserve it) and wont consider Indiana because of unnecessary stuff like this.
    IT matters…gay marriage matters…RFRA mattered…policy matters…women matter…this action was unnecessary. Even the GOP state leader pointed out that most, the vast majority of terminations occurred by week 13 (that’s 7 weeks earlier than the previous law) Compromise among the stoneheaded cavepersons that sit at the legislative desks sought NO compromise. We’re a mess…

    1. Well said. No compromise, because the old white men running the state aren’t effected. I’d be ashamed if my grandfather was in charge of this state.

  6. Indiana is currently losing tech talent as a result of this law. In tech a lot of people are working from home full time right now and many of them have considered or are considering moving usually back to a home state while keeping their job. I’ve talked to two people in this circumstance who said this helped them make a decision and they plan on moving.

    1. Good for them. Boy are you naive if you believe this is what broke the camel’s back for them to do so.

  7. “Bill Oesterle, the co-founder and former CEO of Angie’s List who helped lead the corporate revolt against Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, said company executives were likely trying to affect change behind closed doors.”

    Minor comment: the verb, in this case should be “effect” not ‘affect.’ Yes, ‘effect’ is a common noun, but to bring about a change, as inferred in this sentence, the correct use is the more seldom ‘effect’ as a verb.

    The abortion issue is awful and coupled with the embarrassing Indiana congressional representation further paints Indiana as unwelcoming, backward, and regressive — a location unattractive to the so-called best and brightest.

    As a third finger of the south poking in to the Midwest, Indiana will not compete effectively. Characterized by poor infrastructure, low wages, poor schools, violence, and not the best weather; our Statehouse reps and those luxuriating in Washington DC have done little to prove the state open for business.

    The prior abortion restriction at 22 weeks along with the massive associated regulation could have been touted as a reasonable compromise for the entire nation. Now Indiana is in the headlines and in a very negative sense.

    Breaking news: abortions were obtained by GOP voters, and more than a few. One ponders and some know those GOP reps in Congress who have had abortion experiences.

  8. Sorry Indiana libs and those who hold up Illinois as a good example. Way more businesses and people from Illinois leaving there than leaving Indiana. As a current home owner in Indiana and soon to be ex-Illinoisan, the business and political climate in Indiana is way better. Please, do everyone a favor and move to Illinois and enjoy the high taxes, hi crime and “abortions for everyone” policies that you enjoy and can also pay for.

    1. So true!
      Liberal Chicago has lost three major corporate headquarters in the last few
      months.
      One went to mean ole nasty conservative Texas and the other to the
      god awful LGBT hating state of Florida.

      The third to a suburb in the Washington DC metro.

  9. It would have made no difference for Lilly and Cummins to speak out publicly in advance. The radicals on the right were not listening to anyone.

    1. Yes they were, Steve D. Just because they weren’t listening to YOU and your leftist ilk screeching at the top of your lungs doesn’t mean they weren’t listening to their constituents back home, who were going about their daily tasks of living life under this horrible, Biden-imposed inflation while still having enough testicular fortitude to know that the morally-right thing to do is to speak up for the defenseless in the womb who are unable to speak for themselves.

      If you listened to the WOMAN (so much for your “old white men” theory) who authored the original bill, she said they heard from more people back home than the noisy, obnoxious minorities who made life miserable in the statehouse for its workers for a week, trying to derail this bill by intimidation. It’s too bad the mainstream media didn’t show their antics more accurately, but we shouldn’t expect anything different from them….and besides, some of their rhetoric was over-the-top too offensive to be aired on the public airways.

      You lost; get over it.

    2. @BobP:
      .
      No, they weren’t listening to anyone — just their own egos. The state-level Republicans believe Kansas was an anomaly, and even if they paid attention to what happened in Kansas, they don’t fear Democrats and cross-over Republicans voting to replace them with Democratic politicians, they fear Republican constituents replacing them with other Republicans who will be expected to do the bidding which the status quo will seem to not do. .
      They aren’t worried about where the state is on the liberal/conservative spectrum as they know that even a wild swing to the left for one or two terms will correct itself with more mindless conservatives; instead, they fear for their individual positions. Back to the “Power corrupts” which is the state level and “Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely” at the national-level, especially POTUS (as we saw with Donald T. Rump’s addiction – he saw the sand almost gone in the hourglass and needed to regain the position at ALL costs on Jan 6 — the same reason why he is whinging about the FBI’s visit yesterday. He knows that one legal misstep now means his time playing in the sandbox is over…forever…and he will be permanently known as a LOSER!).

  10. As always, it’s fun to try to imagine an alternative universe where Fortunate 100 companies virtual signal right wing values. Can you imagine these two punishing IN if abortion was legal to 40 weeks?
    IBJ, Patron Saint Andre Carson is on record saying he supports businesses extorting communities over political issues (democrat issues only, of course). Can you confirm with him that he is happy with Lilly’s announcement

  11. And another consideration for all you pro-aborts:

    We were told for 49-odd years that Roe vs. Wade would ensure that “every child was a wanted child.”

    That would imply that some youngsters growing up in the 50s and 60s, before Roe Vs. Wade, were unwanted…and at a time when firearms were more easily attained.

    Why, then, are so many of these “wanted” children born during the Roe Vs. Wade’s “guaranteed wanted years,” unable to function in society without killing one another and/or conducting wholesale slaughter of people they don’t even know, with guns that are less readily-available?

    Just asking for a friend…

    1. “Guns that are less than available”? Huh? You honestly think guns are harder to get now than they were in the past?

      You could put forth that the decline in organized religion is a factor. Maybe the decline among religious folks in focusing on grace and helping one’s fellow man – ya know, following the biblical example of Jesus – and more on being a bunch of Pharisees (the people Jesus hated the most) who want to tell people how to live their lives would be a reason for that.

    2. @BOBP:
      .
      Pro-aborts? No one said anything about favoring abortion – just the right to be allowed to do it – which is pro-choice. Now, if you want to go with pro-abort, I think it would be easy to name some people who should be aborted retroactively.

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