Two local business leaders say they did not authorize the use of their names on a letter asking Gov. Eric Holcomb to work to protect the reproductive rights of Indiana women as lawmakers prepare to consider abortion restrictions at the governor’s urging.
The letter, which had circulated among some technology business leaders, was originally published Thursday by The Indianapolis Star with a list of more than 60 signatories. However, some of those business leaders told IBJ they did not sign off on the document.
Bill Oesterle, who was listed as one of the signatories, told IBJ he had not seen the letter in advance of The Star’s publishing it and had not agreed to put his name on it.
“I never, ever authorized it,” said Oesterle, a prominent Republican and co-founder of Angie’s List and MakeMyMove. “It’s the height of irresponsibility that I was attached to this.”
Ting Gootee, president and CEO of Indianapolis-based TechPoint, was also added to the letter without getting a chance to review its contents, the group’s spokeswoman said.
“It’s unfortunate that the letter was released prematurely and before Ting could give an answer as to whether she supports its contents,” Cheryl Reed, media relations manager for Techpoint, said in an email to IBJ. “Certainly, TechPoint sees adverse implications for the state’s ability to attract and retain talent should further restrictions be placed on reproductive rights. We also believe there are healthcare equity issues that would come into play. That said, we will have yet to formulate an official statement.”
IndyStar has since taken the letter off its website and issued a correction atop the story that says the original report “misstated seven individuals as signatories of the letter calling for reproductive rights.” IBJ has not been able to independently determine precisely how many business leaders have signed off on the letter.
“Once we were aware of the mistake, we corrected it—and the correction is at the top of the story,” IndyStar Executive Editor Bro Krift told IBJ.
John Gilman, founder of Clear Software, who signed the letter and was also involved in its circulation among business leaders, said that a rough draft of the letter was shared with IndyStar before all of the signatories had a chance to review it.
“A draft was shared with them that was premature,” Gilman said. “Obviously, these people didn’t approve the document. They didn’t get a chance to, and for that, we’re sorry for any frustration that may have caused them.”
Holcomb, a Republican, has called on the GOP-dominated legislature to further restrict abortions in Indiana following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. Holcomb has asked for legislative action during a special session set to begin in earnest on July 25.
The draft letter signed by some business executives strongly urges the governor “not to take this path.”
The draft says further abortion restrictions would discourage companies committed to creating an inclusive workforce from locating in Indiana and make it difficult to retain and attract workers.
“Women business owners, executives and rising leaders have already begun making plans to move out of the state,” the draft says. “In an era of remote work, talented individuals have many options for where they choose to live. Indiana cannot afford discriminatory public policy that could deter those individuals from choosing our state.”