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EA tells staff that a statement decrying abortion bans would not be "inclusive"

What does that even mean?

Video game publisher and developer Electronic Arts has reportedly informed employees that it has no plans to issue a statement condemning a potential Supreme Court decision to reverse Roe v. Wade. This would see the company following in the steps of Sony Interactive Entertainment, and Reality Labs parent company Meta in making public statements to employees confirming that their employers will not speak out in favor of reproductive rights.

Companies like Bungie, ArenaNet, Certain Affinity and more have taken the opposite stance, making statements in opposition to abortion restrictions.

Like Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan, EA chief people officer Mala Singh apparently gave employees some bizarre reasoning for this decision, and also made comments that might be perceived as tone-deaf. According to Kotaku, Singh reportedly told employees that "being an inclusive company means being inclusive of all those points of view," and that the company only speaks out when it expects it will "have a positive impact" and is a "consistent perspective" among its 13,000 global employees.

Singh did apparently acknowledge that recent headlines in the United States have reflected "tough issues," and that the company knew employees have been impacted by those issues. Her promise to help included something called "healing circles." "One of the other things you’re going to see is we’re going to be making some more healing circles available through modern health," she stated.

No further description of what "healing circles" were was provided. Singh did call on EA staff to "join and process" world events together.

A spokesperson for EA did confirm to Game Developer that Singh made these comments in EA's Global Town Hall, but did not directly comment on them, saying it was "a confidential company forum."

Said spokesperson did provide a statement saying that EA is working to expand travel support for employees living in areas where abortion access may soon be restricted. "As a company our focus is always on the health and wellbeing of our people. We want our employees to be able to make the healthcare decisions that are best for them regardless of where they live," the company stated.

"It’s because of this that we are working with our US healthcare provider to determine how we can expand our benefits to include travel support for any covered services where access is limited in an employee’s region, including reproductive services, gender affirming care and others. Administering this through our healthcare providers facilitates privacy around these very personal needs. We will have a benefits update to share with you soon, and please know that we are monitoring any new developments that could impact our employees."

A new kind of inclusivity

EA's hesitancy to comment on the potential loss of reproductive rights access for millions of people in the United States is strange. EA has been one of the more vocal publishers in the video game industry, having commented in support of the Black Lives Matter protests, and condemned efforts to restrict the rights of Transgender individuals in places like Texas.

EA subsidiaries like Respawn Entertainment have even gone so far as to create in-game flair to allow players to express support for Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, and Stop AAPI Hate.

The company also spoke out early against Russia's invasion in Ukraine.

Its stated logic appears to be a desire to not speak out in favor of abortion rights, under the view that some of its employees may not support such a statement, as they might personally oppose abortion for themselves (possibly for religious reasons). 

But it's unclear why employees' contradicting views on abortion are being considered here, when they were not considered with regard to its statements on Black Lives Matter or policies restricting the rights of transgender Americans. There are quite likely EA employees somewhere in its ranks who did not personally support those causes.

As Pro Choice Maryland executive director Lily Bolourian explained to Game Developer, not only is abortion broadly popular among Americans (over 61 percent of American adults are in favor of abortion access, and even those opposed favor abortion access in some cases), but those who regularly need abortions or provide them to patients are likely among EA's player base. By deferring to abortion opponents, EA risks leaving them out in the cold.

It's quite dark to see an EA executive describe this inaction through the lens of inclusivity. The decision to have an abortion is a difficult choice that people in America make on a regular basis, and is a very personal decision. Being inclusive of abortion opposition means being inclusive of the belief that one's private medical decisions may be dictated by others, often on a religious basis.

The decision to reverse Roe v. Wade, and allow abortion bans or heavy restrictions to take effect in at least 28 states, will disproportionately impact women, transgender men, and other people in need of abortions. States like Texas have already shown that denial of access to reproductive health also has disproportionate impacts on impoverished communities of color

EA may be making plans to support employees who need out-of-state healthcare (it has offices in states like Texas, where abortion is effectively banned), but there are still risks employees will face in trying to seek that care. Some lawmakers are already promising to punish residents who seek care banned within their state, it is unclear yet if they will target companies or health insurance companies who facilitate such travel.

And most frighteningly, there might well be instances where travelling could put an employee's health in danger and out-of-state care may not be possible. If these bans are legitimized, there is no question that EA employees (and other game developers) will be at risk.

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