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Eli Lilly, Indiana and Dobbs.

I told you so.

After Indiana passed it’s new abortion law, Eli Lilly announced it would seriously consider pulling out of the state:

“After the legislation was signed into law, Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical giant and one of the state’s largest employers, warned that such laws would hurt its employee recruiting efforts and said the company would look elsewhere for its expansion plans.

“We are concerned that this law will hinder Lilly’s — and Indiana’s — ability to attract diverse scientific engineering and business talent from around the world,” the company said in a statement issued Saturday. “Given this new law, we will be forced to plan for more employment growth outside our home state.””

Many people who read that statement will think Lilly is making a statement about how Indiana is becoming an unattractive state for STEM professionals altogether. It’s not exactly what Lilly is saying here because I’ve met Republicans and very religious people in the labs. I’m not sure Indians, Asians, Muslims and non-religious scientists are the whole story. That’s not the issue.

Here’s the issue:

Eli Lilly is the first employer to highlight what will happen to women’s careers even if they aren’t pregnant.

A woman working in an R&D lab (biology, chemistry) is frequently exposed to known teratogens and substances that are unknown teratogens. In Indiana, that means exposing the fetus to harm, causing birth defects. To avoid this, R&D labs have been know in the past to remove women from the labs as soon as they know they are pregnant to prevent damage to the fetus and liability for the company. 

Now, without the ability to abort except for lethal damage, woman may need to be excluded from the lab altogether. She may not know she is pregnant before the damage is done and while these instances are rare, no one will be able to risk it. So, a female PhD for example who has studied for a significant chunk of her life to do a particular area of research will probably need to follow strict guidelines on what she can do in the lab. Or she may have to stay out of the lab altogether. The is going to directly impact the research projects she’s working on, her body of work, patents she might be an inventor on and papers she might have published. It will also be difficult for her to manage or direct the experiments of people who are working for her. 

In other words, it’s a huge setback for female STEM professionals in terms of achievements, recognition, advancements and compensation. This is what Eli Lilly is saying, likely because their female scientists immediately brought it to their attention after Dobbs. It doesn’t matter if they can travel out of state for abortion. The state could hold female lab workers and their companies liable for any damage to fetuses who are not aborted. Will criminal suits follow? Who knows. You could end up in jail for knowingly exposing a fetus to a known teratogen. It’s bad for female researchers in industrial and academic labs anywhere a legislature as decided that “it’s not her body, not her choice”.

Pennsylvania, take notice. We have an overwhelmingly Republican state legislature and the only thing preventing us from becoming Indiana is our Democratic governor. This fall, we have a choice between Doug Mastriano, an extreme right wing religious Christian Nationalist who’s not above bussing people to insurrections and Josh Shapiro, our Democratic AG. We also have a number of pharma companies and small biotechs in the Philadelphia area. In Pittsburgh, we have Bauer and PPG, which although it isn’t a pharma also has labs for paints and coatings. All of these companies with labs that could potentially expose women to harmful agents will be affected and all of the women working in them now are facing an existential threat to their careers.

It’s not a crazy theory now. It’s really happening.