The Supreme Court of the United States voted to overturn Roe v Wade (opens in new tab) today, officially bringing to an end 50 years of constitutionally-protected access to abortion. A handful of US states had legal triggers in place that banned abortion (opens in new tab) immediately, and more are expected to follow. The decision deals a devastating blow to fundamental human rights in the country: As Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan write in a gut-wrenching dissenting opinion (opens in new tab), the end of Roe v. Wade represents "the curtailment of women's rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens."
When the intent to overrule Roe v. Wade was initially leaked in early May, the response from the games industry was relatively quiet compared to how openly studios have publicized their support for social issues like trans rights (opens in new tab), Black Lives Matter (opens in new tab), and the Russian invasion of Ukraine (opens in new tab). Destiny 2 developer Bungie quickly released a statement saying it "supports essential healthcare rights (opens in new tab)," and Psychonauts studio Double Fine (opens in new tab) soon followed; Sony Interactive Entertainment chief Jim Ryan (opens in new tab), on the other hand, came under fire for trying to paper over the whole thing with cat pictures.
Of course, at that point there was still room for a faint, foolish hope, even after Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed that the leak was legitimate, that opinions would change or it would all blow over or something would happen to keep Roe v. Wade intact. Now that option has been wiped off the table, and game companies are speaking out against the decision much more forcefully.
Bungie, again, was first to respond, updating its May statement with a commitment to establish a "travel reimbursement fund (opens in new tab)" for employees and their dependents who will now be forced to travel in order to access health care. "We remain undeterred in our commitment to stand up for reproductive choice and liberty," Bungie said.
Paris-based publisher Ubisoft posted a message expressing support for its teams in the US: "Today and every day, we believe that reproductive rights are human rights, women's rights are human rights, trans rights are human rights, and equal rights for all are essential to a world where everyone can be their authentic selves and thrive."
https://t.co/DXKcGmPJp0 pic.twitter.com/ti64jXB0m7June 24, 2022
Ubisoft also linked to a June 15 statement (opens in new tab) from chief people officer Anika Grant and global diversity and inclusion vice president Raashi Sikka, who said the company is reviewing its benefits packages for US employees to ensure they have full access to healthcare regardless of where in the country they live. "In addition, we are examining what other resources we can bring to bear to support our women and LGBTQ+ team members in the US who could be most directly affected," they wrote.
Devolver Digital went with a more direct approach.
Among Us developer Innersloth said the overturning of Roe v. Wade "is a gender, racial, economic, and human rights disaster for both present and future generations," and provided a list of relevant charities that supporters can donate to. An Innersloth rep also confirmed that the studio has made a donation to the National Network of Abortion Funds.
💙🔹 Abortion Funds (split btwn 80+ diff funds): https://t.co/vf0taWU7w4🔹 The Brigid Alliance: https://t.co/WOE61Szauv🔹 Trans Lifeline: https://t.co/14SkEGJvuf🔹 In Our Own Voice: https://t.co/9Wl4xuoQin🔹 Plan C: https://t.co/WBwtXg1JNx pic.twitter.com/OB2zT8ORE9June 24, 2022
Bethesda Softworks also kept its response simple:
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Sony-owned studios were unexpectedly outspoken in the immediate wake of the decision. It was reported in May that Sony had forbidden its studios from making public statements about abortion rights in the US; employees at Spider-Man developer Insomniac Games (opens in new tab) had asked company leadership to make a public statement on the matter, but were told that Sony "will not approve ANY statements from any studio on the topic of reproductive rights."
It's possible that Sony changed its mind in the face of the Jim Ryan cat pics debacle, or that individual studio leadership decided that it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission, but whatever the case, they reacted quickly and with a unified front today.
Naughty Dog president Neil Druckmann (opens in new tab) and vice president Arne Meyer (opens in new tab) also tweeted receipts for hefty donations to relevant charities, and said that Sony is continuing its policy of matching donated funds.
Humble Bundle said in a statement that it is "committed to ensure that all of Humble's employees have access to safe, affordable, and essential healthcare, including reimbursement for travel that may be needed as a consequence of today's decision." It also said it will have more to share on future actions in the coming weeks.
Electronic Arts also committed to "expanding our benefits for US employees and their eligible dependents" to ensure they have access to healthcare.
pic.twitter.com/dSqDQhJOR6June 24, 2022
And Microsoft committed to extending travel benefits "to include travel expense support assistance for covered medical services."
Our U.S. health plans cover lawful medical services like abortion and gender-affirming care, and we recently extended our travel benefits to include travel expense support assistance for covered medical services.June 24, 2022
The International Game Developers Association issued a statement (opens in new tab) saying that it opposes efforts to "weaken existing liberties," and is "concerned by increased government interventions undermining and limiting reproductive choice and access to care."
The Communications Workers of America, the parent of the Game Workers Alliance, also spoke out (opens in new tab) against the decision, describing the Supreme Court as "dangerously out of step with the American people."
"From recent decisions eliminating public sector fair share fees, to allowing employers to force workers to sign arbitration agreements giving up their right to participate in class action lawsuits, to striking down laws that allow union organizers to meet with workers, the anti-worker majority on the Court has relentlessly pursued its ideologically driven agenda at the expense of working people," the CWA said.
"Today's radical decision overturning the long-established constitutional right to safe, legal abortion is a continuation of those efforts. Without the ability to make their own choices about reproductive healthcare, and in a country where pregnancy can have devastating economic effects due pervasive discrimination and the lack of affordable healthcare or paid parental live, working class women are the ones who will suffer the most."
Of course, tweets are easy—concrete action is something else entirely. Bungie is putting its money where its mouth is, as are others like Innersloth and Naughty Dog, but other studios haven't commented publicly yet on whether they have made, or will make, material commitments to expand healthcare rights for its employees. I've reached out to Ubisoft, Devolver, and Innersloth for more information, and will update if I receive a reply.
Some studios also shared links to relevant charities, for fans who want to support access to healthcare and reproductive rights in the US:
- URGE (Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity) (opens in new tab)
- Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (opens in new tab)
- NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation (opens in new tab)
- In Our Own Voice (opens in new tab)
- Trans Lifeline (opens in new tab)
- Abortion Funds (opens in new tab)
- The Brigid Alliance (opens in new tab)
- In Our Own Voice (opens in new tab)
- Plan C (opens in new tab)