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The New Abortion Law In Texas Prompts Very Little Corporate Pushback

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Some big companies have been swift to speak out against how Texas has dealt with big political issues, everything from voting rights, police reform, climate change. But the new Texas law banning abortion hasn't generated the same response from corporate America. Governor Greg Abbott told CNBC last week Texas politics is not hurting business.

(SOUNDBITE OF CNBC BROADCAST)

GREG ABBOTT: This is not slowing down businesses coming to the state of Texas at all. In fact, it is accelerating the process of businesses coming to Texas.

MARTIN: Houston Chronicle business columnist Chris Tomlinson has been writing about the role of corporate leaders in Texas politics. And he joins us now. Thanks for being here.

CHRIS TOMLINSON: Oh, thanks for having me, Rachel.

MARTIN: First off, is there any evidence of what Governor Abbott is claiming, that the new anti-abortion law is bringing business to Texas?

TOMLINSON: You know, our governor is just whistling past the graveyard. It's too early to know. Companies that decided to relocate made that decision a year ago, two years ago. It's - you know, we can't judge anything by what's happening at the moment.

MARTIN: Texas is the headquarters for a whole lot of big U.S. corporations. And as we noted, several of them went public quickly, criticizing moves by the state's legislature on LGBTQ rights or what they view to be insufficient climate policy or gun laws. What is different in this case? Because they're not speaking out in the same way.

TOMLINSON: Well, you know, in the last four years, we've seen a GOP conservative lawmakers make clear that they don't feel any sense of accountability to corporate leaders. Both Abbott and our lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, have told them, basically, stay out of politics. And that's something that would have been unthinkable five years ago.

MARTIN: What are the repercussions of that, though? I mean, it's one thing if Governor Abbott says, we need to just separate business from politics. But for corporations and businesses, politics is a big part of their brand. It can be, anyway - how consumers perceive them.

TOMLINSON: Well, undoubtedly, consumers, Americans in general expect their corporate leaders, the makers of the products they care about, to take stands on social issues. And often, employees have high expectations from their employers. So I think what we're going to see is a slowdown of companies coming to Texas because their employers don't want to come here, and the CEOs don't want to be associated with it.

MARTIN: But is there something different about the issue of abortion that's far less clear-cut for some of these corporations and their marketing arms than voting rights or climate change?

TOMLINSON: Yes, there is a big difference because abortion really does divide the country. It is an emotional issue. It's one that, you know, you can't take a stand on and have an upside. If you stand for the climate, of course you do. You want voting rights? That's just being American. But abortion is so much more divisive. It's so much more personal for people that taking a stand on it just doesn't make any sense.

MARTIN: The way that Texas went about this and creating this enforcement mechanism that would empower citizens - I mean, this really is exceptional. And is there any expectation that even though there might be - might not be the corporate boycotts, that just individuals might make decisions not to come to Texas for tourism or recreation or entertainment?

TOMLINSON: You know, I think that's the real risk to the Texas economy - is that we do rely quite a bit on tourism, particularly San Antonio with the River Walk and the Alamo. Houston is a major convention town. So is Dallas. And, you know, when people vote, you know, they're voting with their feet. They're voting with their dollars. And they're going to choose not to come here because our reputation is that of a deeply socially conservative state.

MARTIN: Business columnist Chris Tomlinson with the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News. Thank you.

TOMLINSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.