Rebecca was receiving ready to start her workday at Apple in June when she learned the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned Roe vs. Wade. The decision would trigger laws banning or restricting abortion in 13 states, including Texas, where she lived. Hollowed out by the news, the Austin-based corporate employee debated skipping the job, but went ahead.
As the day went on, Rebecca waited for Apple executives to acknowledge the impact of the court’s decision on its workforce, especially those like her living in states that were on the verge of banning abortion. Abortion restrictions not only limit women’s reproductive choices, but can also endanger the life of anyone who needs emergency medical treatment during pregnancy. She hoped the company would also publicly condemn the Supreme Court’s decision. All she received was a mass email reminding employees that their health plan covered out-of-state travel for medical care.
For weeks after, Rebecca heard no more from Apple management, until employees started calling for answers. But when Texas officials held “listening sessions” on abortion issues, they were sometimes worryingly evasive, she and other attendees told WIRED, and said the policy of the company prohibited workers — even those who feared anti-abortion laws — from switching to remote work or transferring to an office in another state. (Rebecca asked that her real name be withheld because she fears losing her job.)
Apple is one of many large Silicon Valley companies that have expanded or migrated to Texas in recent years, rooting themselves in very different political terrain than California. Today, the company and its generally progressive workforce are counting on the spread of tougher restrictions and outright bans on abortion.
In 2021, Texas lawmakers passed a law known as SB8 that effectively banned abortions after six weeks by encouraging residents to sue anyone who helped someone access the procedure. At the time, most Apple employees were working remotely. But at the moment roe deer fell, further restricting abortion access in Texas, Apple was in the midst of a contentious back-to-office campaign. Meanwhile, construction of a billion-dollar campus in northwest Austin, which the company says could eventually accommodate 15,000 workers, has continued apace. Now employees learned that anyone based in the company’s offices in Texas who did not want to live under state law had to choose between their reproductive rights and their job. Those unable or unwilling to leave faced a potential minefield of healthcare decisions.
Many people in the United States faced similar or worse obstacles after roe deer was canceled: the lowest-income workers experience the highest rates of unwanted pregnancies, and many do not have health insurance. Many companies in technology and other sectors have said little about the court’s decision. But for some Apple employees drawn to the company’s previous outspoken support for progressive social issues such as gay and transgender rights, its silence on the issue has stung.
“A lot of people join Apple because Apple is trying to do better,” says Rebecca. “The reaction, or lack of reaction, was a huge slap in the face.” Some Texas employees felt scared and adrift, unsure whether they could transfer out of state or how reliably the travel policy would protect them. Some were even hesitant to ask officials questions about access to abortion, fearing reprisals from bosses who might support restricting access to such care.
At an Apple division, some senior executives in Texas have agreed to hold employee listening sessions to air their concerns. According to Rebecca and two other participants who asked to remain anonymous and allowed WIRED to review their notes, their notes varied in size, from one-on-one meetings to group sessions with dozens of employees. “I think there was enough rumbling within the organization that they had to react at some point,” says one employee. “Obviously it would have been better if he was proactive.”