Austin Tech Leaders Speak Up Against Texas Abortion Law

About 28 local tech leaders condemned several pieces of legislation that they believe could deter top talent from the area.
Written by Jeff Rumage
October 5, 2021Updated: October 5, 2021
Protestors hold signs condemning Texas' new abortion law at a rally in San Antonio.
Protesters speak out against Texas' abortion law at a rally in san antonio on october 2 | photo: shutterstock

A bipartisan group of 28 Austin tech leaders have drafted an open letter condemning Texas’ new abortion law, as well as other legislation that limits voting access, targets transgender children and allows the open carry of firearms without a permit or training.

The letter was published October 1 on the Austin Startups website by Joshua Baer, the founder and CEO of Austin-based incubator Capital Factory.

The tech leaders who signed the letter also donated to the Austin Tech Alliance, a civic-minded nonprofit that has coordinated more than 60 voter registration drives since 2017.

In the letter, the Austin tech leaders highlight the economic growth that has recently come to Texas, such as Oracle’s new Austin headquarters, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise’s move to Houston and Elon Musk’s relocation from California to Austin.

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The letter points out that the state has also attracted plenty of young tech talent looking to launch, connect and grow within the state’s vibrant startup scene. 

“Texas has undisputedly won in tech during the very challenging pandemic. Our state has been very innovative, and we applaud our leadership to that end,” they wrote. “Governor Abbott, and former Governor Perry before him, prided themselves on being some of the best at recruiting companies to move here. Which is precisely why it is so troubling to us that in the past few months, our state government has been innovating in all of the wrong ways by finding legal loopholes to skirt national laws and suppress voters with whom they don’t agree. It’s not fair, it’s not democracy, and it’s not good for business.”

The letter argues the Texas abortion law could deter the recent growth in technology jobs.

Texas’ controversial abortion law, which went into effect last month, bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion.

The letter from the Austin tech community claims the law circumvents national law and sets a dangerous precedent by creating “citizen prosecutors.”

One of the CEOs who signed the letter, CEO Brett Hurt, said on Twitter that he felt it was important for the Austin tech community speak out.

“I believe it is necessary, and required, to lead when your time calls for it,” he wrote. “This is one of those times for Texas, and I’m doing what I know best how to do to help given the voice and role that I have.”

Additional Austin tech leaders represented among the letter’s signers include ICON CEO Jason Ballard, CEO Omair Tariq, OJO Labs CEO John Berkowitz, The Zebra founder and former CEO Adam Lyons, and CRO Ben Rubenstein.

The letter also criticizes state legislation that would restrict voting access; target transgender children; allow people to openly carry guns without training or a permit; and limit local governments’ ability to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

Other companies in the tech world have also spoken out against the Texas abortion law.

Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff recently told Texas employees he would pay for their relocation expenses if they have “concerns about access to reproductive healthcare.”

Apple then told its employees that its health insurance would help cover any costs incurred by Texas employees who needed to travel due to reproductive health restrictions.

Dallas-based Match Group, which owns, Tinder, OkCupid and Hinge, has set up a fund for Texas employees who need to seek reproductive health in another state. Another women-led online dating company, Austin-based Bumble, has set up a similar fund. 

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