This story is part of CityBeat‘s and Cleveland Scene‘s feature package about what the June 24 reversal of Roe v. Wade means in Ohio. Read more stories in our abortion series.
In recent months, Ohio has put on a full-press campaign through JobsOhio, the state’s quasi-public economic development agency, to lure companies to the state. The $50 million ad campaign has been deployed in Texas, New York, and other states with messages touting Ohio’s business-friendly zero-percent corporate tax rate and cheap cost of living.
While major relocation or expansion decisions made by national corporations and large businesses often hinge not on broad reputational strokes of a state (Ohio’s leaders have long fought the idea that the state is “flyover country,” for example) but on the ability to hire workers and extract extravagant subsidies (such as Ohio giving Intel $2.1 billion in incentives to build its new chip hub in Columbus), low taxes and affordable cost of living certainly play a role in courting business.
Abortion rights might be a new carrot in those races or — in Ohio’s case — a checkmark against a state.
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent reversal of Roe v. Wade, some large companies in Ohio and other conservative states like Texas and Florida already have been solicited by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to relocate to a state that will protect access to abortion care.
“The overturning of a woman’s right to bodily autonomy — and the chilling effect this decision will have on your ability to attract and retain top female talent by being located in a state which has refused to recognize women’s reproductive freedom — cannot be ignored,” Murphy said in a June letter, which was first reported by NPR.
The call to move corporations to states without abortion restrictions will get louder, experts say.
“The abortion restrictions are one part of a larger state culture that is not friendly or is hostile toward women, and so attracting top talent, women and families, it’s going to be really hard for some of the businesses in these states,” Nicole Mason, CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told Fortune in May.
In the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision for Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the majority decision noted, “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”
An abortion ban in Ohio will directly and negatively impact that ability, experts say. In May, economic analysis firm Scioto Analysis released a survey showing that 22 of 24 economists interviewed agree abortion bans in Ohio would have a detrimental effect on the workforce.
“The empirical evidence is very clear about the negative impact of unplanned pregnancies on women’s educational attainment, especially when support services are unavailable or unaffordable,” Dr. Fadhel Kaboub, an associate professor of economics at Denison University, said in the report.
“Economic research overwhelmingly indicates that abortion rights greatly affect the educational level, career opportunities, earning and wealth enhancement potential for women,” added Dr. Diane Monaco, an assistant professor of economics at Heidelberg University. “Abortion rights advantages are especially profound for historically marginalized women as well.”
A disproportionate burden will be carried by those least able to carry it, says Mikaela Smith, a research scientist with the Ohio Policy Evaluation Network at Ohio State University.
“Research reflects similar patterns of decreased access to abortion and other reproductive healthcare services among rural residents, suggesting that burdens associated with abortion restrictions will be felt particularly hard by those living in rural areas,” Smith says. “Given that we know that a lack of financial resources is one of the primary reasons people seek an abortion and that being denied an abortion is associated with poorer economic outcomes, losing access to abortion — particularly among rural folks as well as people of color and those experiencing financial burdens more broadly — will surely result in negative economic impacts at both the individual and community levels.”
Recent studies by the Institute For Women’s Policy Research back that up, showing that in 2020, statewide abortion restrictions caused $4.5 billion in economic losses. The vast majority of that hefty figure was shouldered by Ohio women ages 15-44, who experienced reduced earning levels and a higher number of job changes. They also lost opportunities for future earnings due to time away from work when they were forced to carry pregnancies to term and care for children.
These losses could increase even further as a statewide abortion ban will keep more women out of the workforce, creating a loss of productivity, talent and wages that could have been taxed and spent back out into the state economy.
An Ohio abortion ban also may mean higher costs for taxpayers, given the data on abortion patient demographics and the impact that not being able to attain one has on the individual’s finances. Ohio residents could be on the hook for contributing to more public assistance, as funds from Women, Infants and Children (WIC) or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) will be used by those dealing with the economic ramifications of full-term pregnancies and children.
Incoming businesses and investments to the state could also be affected, including high-profile sectors like the film industry. A-list films like Carol and Captain America: The Winter Soldier were filmed in Cincinnati and Cleveland, respectively, and Ohio routinely is a beacon for other major films. Business has been growing, too, thanks in part to a generous state tax credit program. The Greater Cleveland Film Commission last year cited a study by Olsberg SPI, an international consultancy agency, that found the Ohio film industry has created $1.2 billion in economic impact since 2009 and has created 6,192 “full-time equivalent jobs.”
But professional organizations such as the Writers Guild of America are already urging members to avoid states that enact abortion bans now.
“We call on our employers to consider the laws of each state when choosing production locations to ensure that our members will never be denied full access to reproductive healthcare,” the WGA said in a statement in early May (the Greater Cleveland Film Commission didn’t respond to a request for comment).
Nationally and in Ohio, some large corporations have begun to step in, offering extra time off and financial benefits to employees who need to travel out-of-state for an abortion, and Cincinnati announced June 27 that it’s rewriting its healthcare policy, as well. But that may not be enough to keep Ohio workers — or businesses — from moving to locations with fewer health restrictions.
“Eight in 10 college-educated knowledge workers — top talent — view access to abortion and reproductive health care as part of gender equity in the workplace, no more, no less,” says Jen Stark, senior director for corporate strategy at the Tara Health Foundation, in an interview with Voice Of America. “Employers that want to attract top talent into states that have social policies that don’t align with their values will have to do more to make up for this.”
With Roe now reversed, CityBeat is exploring what comes next for Ohioans seeking abortion resources and reproductive care. Click below to read our in-depth stories about each topic.
Editor’s note: Some of the people and organizations quoted in this feature frame their abortion language around “women,” meaning a sex assigned at birth. But transgender men, intersex individuals, non-binary individuals and agender individuals also receive abortion care. We will continue to explore abortion issues that affect all individuals in future stories.
This feature is a collaborative effort by reporters and editors at CityBeat in Cincinnati and Cleveland Scene in Cleveland, including Sam Allard, Allison Babka, Madeline Fening, Vince Grzegorek, Gennifer Harding-Gosnell, Maggy McDonel, Ashley Moor and Maija Zummo.
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