“Women’s ability to participate freely and fully in the workforce is essential to the growth, performance and resilience of the U.S. economy and the businesses which comprise it. Their participation is contingent upon access to comprehensive reproductive health services, including contraception and abortion. These services are used by nearly all women – 99 percent have used contraception and 25 percent have had an abortion by age 45.”
These are some of the opening words and eye-opening stats in a report recently released by impact investment firm RH Capital. The message is clear: Investing in reproductive health is imperative and taking a stand in the fight for reproductive justice is more important now than ever before.
Without doubt the Supreme Court decision to reverse Roe vs Wade has fundamentally changed the landscape in the U.S., and just like the rest of Corporate America, VCs can no longer ignore the facts. Dobbs has been devastating when it comes to reproductive rights, human rights really. And beyond that the negative effects on businesses and the economy as a whole are also becoming increasingly obvious. Well aware of the consequences, yet unsure what to do, many VC firms have been watching from the sidelines for the past couple of months. Now, ahead of the midterm elections in the U.S., it looks like things are slowly starting to change.
VCs For Repro, a new initiative, has to date rallied over 100 VC firms with combined AUM of over $100 Billion around one simple, yet powerful statement ahead of tomorrow’s midterm elections: “Criminalizing abortion violates human rights and is anti-innovation. This matters to the people investing in the future of our economy. Vote like it matters to you on November 8, 2022.”
VCs For Repro was born from the intersection of multiple efforts. This past summer Backstage Capital General Partner Christie Pitts, Amboy Street Ventures Founding Partner Carli Sapir, Coyote Ventures Founding Partner Jessica Karr, and VEST Her Ventures Founder Erika Lucas, circulated a letter encouraging investors to donate to abortion access, and distributed a messaging kit in the VC community ahead of the Dobbs decision. At the time Synastry Capital President Janna Meyrowitz Turner advised on the messaging. Their pings to thousands of investors and connectors started a broader conversation around how to show support for reproductive rights through the lens of innovation. Pitts and Turner had the bandwidths, complementary skill sets, and networks to turn VCs For Repro into what it has become today.
“The investment community cannot sit on the sidelines when it comes to abortion access. Whether or not women have control over their own bodies impacts our employees, our business, our portfolio companies, and the economy”, says Pitts, who has been in the VC industry for more than 10 years and invests into underrepresented founders at Backstage capital. “We invest every day in entrepreneurs and innovators who are tackling our world’s hardest problems, and we need to focus that effort on this humanitarian and economic crisis.”
It seems like many VCs from all corners of the ecosystem agree. Among the 100 firms that have already signed on to VCs For Repro are large generalist firms like Insight Partners, 776 or M13, as well as pioneering womxn’s health focused funds like RH Capital, Amboy Street Ventures, or Goddess Gaia Ventures. Notably some of the firms listed as coalition members are currently raising, but nevertheless eager to take a stand despite the risk of potential LP backlash.
According to Pitts, startup founders have also been crucial in supporting VCs for Repro, and encouraging investors to get involved. Pitts shares that one founder took it upon herself to forward information about the initiative to a whole list of investors, she was in talks with regarding her upcoming round. “She told me she was nervous to share VCs for Repro with investors and worried about backlash. But in the end she decided that she didn’t want a firm on her cap table if they didn’t support reproductive rights.”
Kiki Freedman, Co-founder & CEO of Hey Jane, a telemedicine medication abortion startup that just announced its $6.1M “Roe-Round”, also weighed in on the initiative: “Unequivocally stating that access to abortion matters is an important first step from this large group of powerful investors. I hope that the coalition continues to use its capital – both social and financial – to ensure all people have access to safe, convenient, and legal abortions.”
For some of the VC firms, who have signed on to VCs for Repro, this is the first time they’re speaking up about abortion access. Many had remained silent after the decision earlier this year – largely because they were unsure how their LPs or employees would react, or what the best course of action was. Over the past couple of months, however, the role of venture capital in the fight for reproductive freedom has become increasingly clear. “There has been a push to fund more reproductive health companies, include healthcare access in ESG investments and reevaluate the safest places to open a business for women employees”, explains TechCrunch’s Dominic-Madori Davis in a recent article.
VCs For Repro is only getting started, and after its debut the road to more impact and political leverage will likely be a long one. Both Pitts and Meyrowitz Turner say they are up for the challenge. “This is just the beginning – a first step to rally VC firms together at a critical moment in American history”, says Meyrowitz Turner. “We are already developing post-election plans to turn our statement and the conversations it has spurred into further concrete action.”
Are more VCs finally stepping up and organizing to put their social, and financial capital to work for abortion access? As the Founder of Femtech Insider I sure hope so. There is power in numbers and frankly it is about time the fight for reproductive rights makes the VC agenda. Reproductive freedom truly IS everyone’s business after all, and that, of course, also included the influential investment community.