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Some local business execs say NC abortion law will drive away customers, harm employees

Small, local companies — still reeling from the pandemic — fear that North Carolina’s new abortion law will set them back further, several business executives said at a press conference Friday.

They said they worry that Senate Bill 20, which bans most abortions after 12 weeks, will drive away talent, dissuade big companies from moving in and worsen their employees’ quality of life.

Kate Charland, chief operating officer of Carpenter Development, said her Raleigh real estate development company has pulled back its projects, in part because of SB 20.

“We’re in the business of creating spaces for people to fill,” she said.

She said her group isn’t confident that businesses from Virginia and elsewhere would be willing now to move into their North Carolina buildings.

Rebecca Couch, chief operating officer of Trophy Brewing, said she thinks tourists might think twice about visiting the Triangle, which would impact local restaurants and shops.

“They’re not looking at us like they would have, as this developing state that has so much to offer,” she said.

Others said they feared the new law would worsen their employees’ quality of life.

“I have a very small staff but they’re all young people and I feel protective of their rights,” said Pam Blondin, owner of Deco Raleigh, a retail store downtown.

The News & Observer reached out to the NC Chamber, the Raleigh Chamber and representatives from the office of House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger for comment. None replied Friday afternoon.

Deja vu for some business owners

The abortion law reminds some business leaders of HB 2, the “bathroom bill,” which prevented transgender people from using public restrooms that aligned with their gender identity.

The legislation, deemed discriminatory by many, caused the state to lose a number of lucrative events and business deals.

PayPal canceled its plans to expand into Charlotte, which would have created 400 jobs and added millions to the state’s economy. Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr pulled out of local concerts. The NCAA moved the location of championships that were scheduled to take place in North Carolina.

All told, an Associated Press analysis estimated the legislation cost North Carolina $3.76 billion in lost business. State legislators repealed House Bill 2 shortly after.

So far, SB 20 has not generated the same magnitude of economic blowback.

U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross, a Raleigh Democrat who was at the Friday press conference, said she thinks that’s due in part to “business fatigue.”

Couch said she believes the issue of abortion has been so polarized that businesses are hesitant to stand against restrictions.

“This issue has been pushed so far underground that people are unwilling to speak up about it,” she said.

Teddy Rosenbluth covers science and health care for The News & Observer in a position funded by Duke Health and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work.