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Coca-Cola soundly rejects abortion resolution

The abortion-ESG complex is having a bad year (and that’s good)


A Coca-Cola truck maneuvers in a parking lot at a bottling plant in Needham, Mass. Associated Press/Photo by Steven Senne

Coca-Cola soundly rejects abortion resolution
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On Tuesday, the shareholders of the Coca-Cola company voted down a resolution that would have pressured the company to oppose, and perhaps divest from, states that offer legal protection to the unborn. It only garnered 13 percent of the vote, the lowest so far for similar proposals.

The proposal came from investors, not from the company itself. Shareholders of publicly traded corporations have a right to put proposals up for a vote. This right is not well known by conservatives. Liberals, on the other hand, seem quite familiar with this instrument for the exercise of corporate power, which is why historically proposals from the left typically outnumber those from the right 20-to-1. But things are getting better. This year that number looks to be closer to 10-to-1.

But, unfortunately, we are in the phase of the battle where the left often sets the agenda and our duty is mainly to vote against their bad ideas. And among the worst of their bad ideas this year is a spate of proposals of various forms used to promote abortion under the banner of risk management. Typically, these shareholder resolutions that appear on proxies (the corporate governance equivalent of ballots in political elections) call upon companies to study the risk of whatever the activists disapprove of.

For example, the predictably left-wing group As You Sow asked Coca-Cola to issue a “Report on Risk Due to Restrictions on Reproductive Rights.” This report would include “potential risks or costs to the company caused by … state policies severely restricting reproductive rights.” Note that only alleged risks or costs were mentioned, not benefits or advantages. This is typical. These activists do not call for cost/benefit analysis, only cost. They have an agenda and it shows. Clearly, trade-offs are not permitted. Pro-life laws are presumed to be bad, and the report’s only job is to tell shareholders just how bad they are. Well, actually, that’s not the only job. The other job is to tell the world exactly what the company is going to do to fight these bad laws, that is “any strategies beyond litigation … that the company may deploy to minimize or mitigate these risks.” In other words, it’s assumed the companies will sue, but what else are they going to do?

We are in the phase of the battle where the left often sets the agenda and our duty is mainly to vote against their bad ideas.

As You Sow has some suggestions for them. The companies should share “any decisions regarding closure or expansion of operations affected by the restrictive laws, and any strategies such as public policy advocacy by the company, related political contributions policies … or educational strategies.” So, companies are steered towards punishing pro-life states by divestment, toward defunding pro-life politicians who would otherwise have been seen as helpful to the company’s interest, and by educating the public about the benefits of abortion and the harm caused when it is prevented.

But what harm could that be? The standard go-to argument for the business benefits of abortion is that abortions keep women at work, and birth takes them away from work. Granted, some women leave the workforce, but so what? They remain consumers. And a birth (instead of an abortion) means there’s another mouth to feed. Hopefully the little ones will be kept off the caffeinated sugar water, but the company also sells milk products and protein shakes and (for the new mom and dad) coffee and various energy drinks.

Plus, of course, every employee of the company is someone who was not aborted. It seems so odd for activists to advance the argument that “companies have become increasingly reliant on women to fill jobs, and especially as they face a nationwide labor shortage” when the labor shortage is due to abortion. The data are clear, no abortion—no labor crisis. Every child lost after Roe would be 50 or under and still in the working age group. And the working age population would not be declining if they were here with us.

This is not the only time we’ll see abortion on corporate proxies this week. In fact, it was not the only resolution on Coca-Cola’s proxy card. There is also what is called a “congruency” report, which amounts to goading companies that have said something in favor of equality to extend that to blacklisting pro-life politicians. It also lost. Cigna and Pfizer both also had congruency resolutions last week that specifically pointed to the abortion issue. They too were defeated.

Thank God the companies are opposing these resolutions, and thank Him again that the largest of the proxy advisor services, ISS, has reversed course and is now opposing the Risk Due to Restrictions on Reproductive Rights proposals. Christians who own shares in these companies should keeping voting no on these and similar proposals. Until we get our act together enough to set the agenda, we must at least be vigilant to vote against their bad ideas.


Jerry Bowyer

Jerry Bowyer is the chief economist of Vident Financial, editor of Townhall Finance, editor of the business channel of The Christian Post, host of Meeting of Minds with Jerry Bowyer podcast, president of Bowyer Research, and author of The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics. He is also resident economist with Kingdom Advisors, serves on the Editorial Board of Salem Communications, and is senior fellow in financial economics at the Center for Cultural Leadership. Jerry lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Susan, and the youngest three of his seven children.


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