“You’re talking about material cooperation,” the priest said. “If someone says, ‘I want to buy a refreshment from this restaurant’ and the restaurant very publicly supports some kind of abortion thing, then I am cooperating.”
Molly Spence, a Starbucks spokeswoman, confirmed that Starbucks matches employees’ donations to most nonprofits and called that “a far cry” from promoting abortion.
Lundberg sees boycotting lattes and Frappuccinos as part of his antiabortion activism, just like marching, which he will do again this year with thousands of fellow Catholics, Protestants and other abortion opponents. “I can protest,” he said. “I can write letters. Or I can say, ‘Look, I’m not going to buy your product.’ … Money talks.”
The antiabortion movement has embraced an emphasis — beginning with evangelical Protestants and now widespread among Catholics as well — on the connection between personal spending and advocacy. And under President Trump, who on Friday will become the first U.S. president to speak at the March for Life in person, the federal government has endorsed their right to distance their dollars from abortion-related spending, taking steps to make it easier for taxpayers and health-care customers to demonstrate their dissent.
The government for decades has forbidden the use of any taxpayer funding to provide abortions, while still providing funds for women’s health organizations to spend on other aspects of patient care. But antiabortion activists, led by Catholic and evangelical groups, have asked for more in recent years.
Activists campaigned for the government to stop providing any money to Planned Parenthood, which uses only donations and other nonpublic funds to offer abortions but relied on federal dollars to offer services such as cancer screenings. In August, conservatives scored a victory when Planned Parenthood dropped out of the massive federal Title X program, citing a Trump administration rule barring groups that receive funding from providing referrals for abortion.
Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule requiring two monthly health insurance bills for consumers who purchase private health insurance on government-run exchanges. One bill will cover almost all the cost of their monthly health insurance premium. The second bill will cover the cost of the abortion coverage that their plan offers (regardless of whether they would use that coverage). Customers may choose not to pay the second bill, without losing their coverage.
The new billing system will affect about 3 million customers and cost insurers $546 million in 2020 and more than $229 million in every year thereafter, according to the department — costs expected to be passed on, at least partly, to consumers.
Even those who championed the rule acknowledge that it will not necessarily reduce the number of abortions, which traditionally has been the focus of March for Life advocacy. The march has espoused wait times for women seeking abortions, earlier cutoff dates after which some pregnancies cannot legally be terminated, and regulatory standards that proponents say enhance safety but advocates of abortion rights say are so onerous they force clinics to close.
Activists such as Lundberg say they also are focused on demanding freedom to exercise choice as consumers, as a way to ease their consciences and send a message about their moral preferences to the government, nonprofits and corporate America.
“The official policy of the bishops is to avoid complicity with abortion,” said Katherine Talalas, who works for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. “It really comes down to the importance of religious freedom for Catholics and the importance to choose the good. It isn’t just necessarily the utilitarian end goal of lowering the number of abortions.”
Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, compared the new insurance rule to the provisions for conscientious objectors in wartime: “The country may still go to war, but your conscience is clear. You’re not holding a gun.” She said that while she is reluctant to endorse boycotts that do not fit into the lives of many busy parents, she avoids certain fast-food chains because of abortion or other issues. “I literally lost my appetite for it,” she said, adding, “It’s not that I’m trying to specifically impact policy. I just don’t want to be part of it.”
The March for Life began as a heavily Catholic movement, and evangelical Protestants have become increasingly involved. M. Cathleen Kaveny, a joint professor of theology and law at Boston College, said the growing emphasis on cutting connections does not fit with some Catholic theology and hints of evangelical influence.
“There isn’t a huge stress on purity, on cutting off all ties with anything bad, within that [Catholic] tradition,” she said. “There’s a doctrine of ‘cooperation with evil,’ about how close you can get to other people’s wrongdoing. … Not all cooperation with evil is impermissible.”
For example, Catholic bishops and theologians have encouraged Catholics to get vaccinated even if the vaccines originated from aborted fetal tissue.
“Boycott movements are more American than Catholic,” Kaveny said.
Some Christian investment firms offer financial products that they promise will ensure clients’ money does not in any way contribute to abortion-related activities. Art Ally, president of the Timothy Plan, said his company’s mutual funds and exchange-traded funds will not buy stock from any company that contributes to Planned Parenthood, any pharmaceutical company that manufactures abortion drugs or any hospital chain that performs abortions.
“If you are pro-life, how much money do you want to invest in companies supporting abortion?” said Ally, whose plan has $1.3 billion under management for more than 50,000 clients. “If you’re really pro-life, the answer is none.”
The Timothy Plan also avoids investment in casinos, as well as cruise lines and equipment manufacturers that promote gambling; manufacturers of tobacco and alcohol; movie or game companies that include positive depictions of gay characters; and many others.
In total, Ally said, the Timothy Plan found something unbiblical about nearly 10 percent of the thousands of publicly traded companies in the United States.
(Other investors looking to profit from some of those industries, rather than avoid them, can do so through investment vehicles sometimes known as “sin stocks” or “vice funds.”)
The website 2ndVote, which describes itself as “a conservative watchdog for corporate activism,” recommends consumers avoid all sorts of companies that its researchers have connected to abortion. For example, it condemns Uber, NBC and Apple for their connection with a think tank that supports abortion rights, and Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret for their parent company’s donations to Planned Parenthood.
When Netflix floated the idea of moving production out of Georgia because of the state’s highly restrictive abortion ban, Christian viewers tweeted they were canceling their Netflix subscriptions. Messages circulate each year warning Christians not to buy Girl Scout cookies, prompting the Girl Scouts of the United States of America to take pains to assure customers that the nonprofit does not contribute to Planned Parenthood or promote any viewpoint on abortion.
Jennifer Holland, a University of Oklahoma historian who studies the antiabortion movement, pointed to companies including Charity Mobile and Patriot Mobile that claim that major cellular carriers are linked to abortion — through corporate support of liberal think tanks and abortion rights organizations — and that offer themselves up as antiabortion cell-service alternatives.
“It’s clear they’re thinking about ways to divest themselves from corporations they think are supporting pro-choice policies or pro-choice ideologies,” she said. “The antiabortion movement is more successful than almost any other movement in enmeshing politics into the personal lives of those who come to believe it. … This is why the movement is so successful."
This article has been updated to include the announcement that Trump will speak at the March for Life and to include a response from Starbucks.