U.S. Airlines Stay Curiously Silent On Abortion

Airlines, like many businesses, have become far more political in recent years – taking stances on controversial issues like voting rights, affirmative action, and gun control. But perhaps the most salient political topic right now alongside inflation is abortion – and airlines are staying silent even when asked about the issue.

Airlines Have Going All-In On Third Rail Issues

Sometimes the media has egged companies into political stances. Most often though it’s employees. And airlines haven’t shied away from hot button topics.

Yet not a single U.S. airline has mentioned the impending Supreme Court decision revisiting Roe vs. Wade or legislative efforts to codify abortion rights at the federal level that I have noticed.

Companies Across The Board Try To Avoid The A-Word

It’s not just airlines staying silent. Other companies have mostly kept quiet on abortion despite it being The Current Thing. Some companies have pledged to pay for their employees’ travel if they find themselves living in a state where abortion is criminalized and they decide to get one out of state. Nonetheless even video game companies have remained silent.

We may have reached peak Woke and it’s beginning to decline (but will remain at an elevated level). ESG investing is growing less popular in 2022 because portfolios without energy stocks are doing especially poorly (at least those not taking shorting seriously as a component of their strategy). Netflix is pushing back on employee political sensibilities and refusing to let them drive its business.

So perhaps the timing of the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization helps explain why companies are staying silent, but it’s also the nature of the issue itself.

Airlines Refuse Comment

I reached out to several U.S. airlines over the course of two weeks. Some ignored the inquiry completely while others declined to comment. Frankly that was the smart choice. It’s a Kobayashi Maru scenario where – at the risk of mixing film references – the only winning move is not to play.

Why This Issue Is Different

Despite the clarity with which activists on both sides see this issue, the vast majority of Americans find it to be morally complex – and also something they’d rather not think about. Surveys pointing to support for abortion rights usually really mean for support in the early months of a pregnancy and in difficult circumstances. Surveys pointing to opposition usually really mean late in pregnancy or when ‘used as birth control.’

Meanwhile restrictions on abortion are complicated because the harder it becomes to obtain an abortion – to the extent it is still possible – tend to push out the decision later into the pregnancy which is morally harder still.

Personally I find abortion to be a difficult issue. Because of my own uncertainty I’m reluctant to codify one answer in law. Legally-speaking the opinion in Roe vs. Wade never seemed strong. Stronger, it seems, would be a robust 9th amendment jurisprudence (which only Justice Gorsuch seems remotely interested in).

While unsatisfying to activists, the formulation that seems to match where most people are remains ‘safe, legal and rare.’ Every company is different but given the passion on both sides, and that the passionate sides diverge from where most people are, it seems like this is where any broad-based consumer-facing company would want to be. And that’s asking for trouble on Twitter.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @chasgood – Nah, it’s a purely economic decision. Cheaper to kill potential offspring than to pay for benefits for them if they were born. Besides, kids just distract workers from being wage slaves.

    Yes, I’m being cynical, but I did once work for a small business who literally fired anyone who had or was going to have children. He didn’t have kids. If you had kids, he didn’t hire you. Illegal to fire pregnant women for reasons of being pregnant, but there are other ways, especially as a small business, to find cause – petty violations. He was unethical in so many ways, the slickest of salesmen, was nationally known in his field, and died young with a ruined reputation, but wealthy. Total scum.

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