OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – If a corporation “aids and abets” an abortion, then it can be faced with a lawsuit from anyone in Oklahoma.
House Bill 4327 allows for anyone to sue a person, or company, that willingly helps a woman obtain an abortion, “including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise.”
Following the overturning of Roe v Wade, many companies publicly pledged to support their employees’ rights to abortion access – even if the state they lived in made it illegal.
Joseph Thai, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, said that because the language of the law extends to anyone that “aids and abets,” then employee benefits that offer travel reimbursements for abortions could make corporations liable to civil penalties.
“If a company provides benefits that allows women to go out of state or to reimburse women for the cost of, you know, getting abortion pills, then they would be civilly liable under this law,” said Thai.
Greg Treat, Republican Senate Pro Tempore, said the law was – in part – designed to prevent that from happening.
“We’re talking about somebody who offers $4,000 to have their baby’s life terminated,” said Treat.
The Senator questions the intentions of businesses that were so quick to offer travel benefits to their employees.
“I think some of these companies (sic) are run by people who are no longer interested in profit but are interested in pushing a social agenda,” said Treat.
He added that there have not been any prosecutions, to his knowledge.
Companies can face penalties of up to $10,000 per lawsuit.
Some Starbucks employees said that cost is worth it in order for corporate to keep their word.
“If Starbucks wants to call itself a progressive company and if it’s going to offer these benefits and put people at risk by reaching out to Starbucks to, you know, take to use these benefits, they owe it to their workers to protect them,” said Alisha Humphrey, a Starbucks barista and union organizer.
Humphrey and Kat Hudgins, another barista, said many employees look to its corporate leadership to stand by the company’s values.
“Starbucks core mission is to nurture the human spirit. One cup, one soul at a time,” said Hudgins. “And so if they’re not taking care of their female employees by assisting them in getting what can be life saving medical care, then how can they say that they’re holding up that mission and value?”
Professor Thai did give some legal defenses companies could use if they find themselves in the court room.
One was the right to travel.
“As citizens of Oklahoma, we have the freedom to travel to Texas or Kansas, and the state of Oklahoma can’t tell us that,” said Thai.
Another defense had to do with people and companies having a first amendment right to free speech.
“We have a free speech right under the First Amendment to at least advise women about the availability of abortions and other reproductive health care in other states,” said Thai.
The professor’s final defense rested on federalism.
“Under the federalism principle, one state cannot interfere with the public policy of another state,” said Thai.