Bumble and the CEO of rival dating platform Match Group are creating relief funds for people affected by a Texas law that bans abortion from as early as six weeks into pregnancy. And in doing so they kicked off a corporate reaction to the legislation that other companies, including Lyft and Uber, have begun to join.
Bumble (BMBLF), which is based in the state capital of Austin and led by CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd, said Wednesday that it has created a fund “supporting the reproductive rights of women and people across the gender spectrum who seek abortions in Texas.”
“Bumble is women-founded and women-led, and from day one we’ve stood up for the most vulnerable. We’ll keep fighting against regressive laws like #SB8,” it said on Twitter, referring to the state law that was signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May and took effect this week.
Relief funds will go to organizations that support women’s reproductive rights including Fund Texas Choice, according to Bumble.
Match Group (MTCH) is also headquartered in Texas. The Dallas-based company owns Match.com and dating apps including Tinder, Plenty of Fish, OkCupid and Hinge. CEO Shar Dubey said she was creating a fund to ensure that employees and their dependents would be able to seek care outside of the state.
“The company generally does not take political stands unless it is relevant to our business. But in this instance, I personally, as a woman in Texas, could not keep silent,” Dubey said in an internal memo.
“Surely everyone should see the danger of this highly punitive and unfair law that doesn’t even make an exception for victims of rape or incest. I would hate for our state to take this big step back in women’s rights,” she added.
The Texas law — which took effect Wednesday after the US Supreme Court and a federal appeals court did not rule on attempts to block it — prohibits abortion providers from conducting abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. It would effectively outlaw at least 85% of the abortions sought in the state, according to opponents.
The law also covers anyone, not just medical providers, who “aids or abets” a restricted abortion. However, because the law only applies to restricted abortions in the state of Texas, Match Group’s Dubey wouldn’t be liable for providing financial support to employees to receive out-of-state care, according to Elizabeth Sepper, a health law expert and law professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Out-of-state abortions are not subject to the six week restriction, and what you have to aid and abet is an abortion in violation of Texas’ six week restriction” to be liable under the new law, Sepper said. She added that for Texas-based companies, the new law could make it harder to convince employees to move to the state.
“This has already been a state that’s extremely hostile to abortion,” she said. “And I think it’s going to be a real recruitment challenge to get people to move to Texas … this certainly is a signal, especially to women in leadership, that this might not be the state for them.”
The law’s wording leaves open the possibility that a driver could be held liable for driving someone to receive an abortion, possibly even if they didn’t know it was happening, Sepper said. The law states that it covers anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement” of a restricted abortion “regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed or induced in violation” of the law.
“If you knowingly engage in conduct, like driving someone somewhere, that does aide and abet, then you’re on the hook,” Sepper said. “There’s a narrow and a broad reading and the broad, and maybe more plausible, reading is that the driver’s on the hook even if they don’t know they’re driving you to an abortion.”
Lyft’s Green said the law “threatens to punish drivers for getting people where they need to go— especially women exercising their right to choose.” He added in a separate tweet that the company is donating $1 million to Planned Parenthood “to ensure that transportation is never a barrier to healthcare access. We encourage other companies to join us.”
Later on Friday, Uber (UBER) CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said on Twitter that Uber (UBER) would also cover any legal fees incurred by its drivers under the law, saying “drivers shouldn’t be put at risk for getting people where they want to go” and telling Green “thanks for the push.”
–CNN Business’ Clare Duffy contributed reporting.