When Curtis Sparrer, a cofounder and principal of tech PR agency Bospar, learned that a new law had effectively gutted abortion rights in the state of Texas, he felt compelled to take action. Bospar had a remote, distributed workforce well before the pandemic, since the firm was started in 2015. That meant the bill, which outlawed most abortions after six weeks into a pregnancy, could impact a small contingent of his employees who were based in Texas.
Sparrer eventually decided that Bospar would cover relocation costs for anyone who made the decision to leave Texas in response to the abortion ban. Though none of Bospar’s employees have moved just yet, Sparrer says multiple people are planning to or strongly considering doing so. “Our company is about 80% women,” he says. “So selfishly, it makes total business sense for us to say, ‘Hey, if you’re a woman, you should consider working at Bospar because we’ve got your back.’ Growing up in Texas, I didn’t see a lot of companies cheerlead gay rights until it was in their business interests to do so. We’re trying to jumpstart that type of conversation now, when it comes to reproductive health.”
On Tuesday, a number of companies, including Lyft and Box, denounced the bill in a public statement—but even so, many tech companies and some of the largest employers in Texas have stayed silent on the matter. Here, Sparrer explains why he felt it was important for Bospar to take a stand, and what he hopes to see from other employers going forward, especially as other states take cues from Texas and further curtail access to abortion. This interview has been edited for clarity and space.
“I really had an understanding of what it was like to have lawmakers legislate my body”
I’m from Dallas, Texas. I live in San Francisco now, but a lot of things in Texas really personally affect me. Growing up gay in Texas, I really had an understanding of what it was like to have lawmakers legislate my body. And I remember growing up and getting in trouble for writing a letter to the editor when I was probably about 12, decrying the tactics used to intimidate abortion providers. My mother said, “You know we’re the only Sparrers in Dallas, right? Everyone knows who we are now because of your letter.”
I always felt very passionately that women should be able to do with their bodies as they choose; I think that decision is best left to a woman and her doctor. I met Sarah Weddington, the attorney who won Roe v. Wade, when I was a student at UT Austin. She was a lecturer, and I even got her book and had her autograph it. I think she’s just a tremendous woman. And it was clear to me that this new law was meant to take a run around Roe.
“We wanted to be an example, so that other companies would do something similar”
We have six people based in Texas. That’s about a tenth of our workforce. And so, when it was clear that the Supreme Court punted and made it law, I sent a note to my leadership team, and said, “What should we do?” A lot of different companies and agencies were saying nice things, but they weren’t doing anything. While I was talking to some of my colleagues, we discovered that one woman was saying, “I’m just thinking about having to move out of Austin, and maybe locate to Chicago, and I’m just thinking of the expenses and everything that would be required.” And that’s when it hit us. We thought, well, this is what we should do—we should make it possible that anyone considering leaving Texas can do it. As a small business, we had to consult with our legal team, our HR team, and our finance team. We then put it in policy, and then we announced it on September 9.
That morning, when the announcement was coming out, I jolted out of bed in a panic. I knew everyone wanted to do this, but I still had that moment of fear about what would happen if internet trolls started attacking us. This is leadership, but it’s also a little scary. After doing some interviews on TV and such, I kind of calmed myself down. And then [that] Friday evening, I got an email from a reporter friend who said, “Hey, Salesforce just did what you did.” It was exciting to see Salesforce doing it. I met with the Public Relations Society of America, Silicon Valley chapter, and the people there said, “We all believe that Salesforce just watched what you did, and once they saw there was no blowback, they agreed to it.”
I hope that is the case because we didn’t think about this just in a vacuum. We wanted to be an example, so that other companies would do something similar. Because if it’s just Salesforce and Bospar providing these benefits, that’s not enough. The more companies adopt policies like this, the more likely Texas legislators are going to think: “This is not a good idea. This is leading to brain drain [and] causing people to reconsider Texas as a place to do business.” Because the real goal of this is not to move people out of Texas. [It’s] to get the lawmakers to reconsider their policies as bad for business.
We’ve only had three pieces of hate mail. And they were all from guys, predictably, because of course they want to tell [women] what to do with their bodies. I have heard nothing but congratulations from my clients [and] peers. It has been amazing, and it really affirms what we did was the right decision. And I want everyone to know that so they can do the same. We’ve even landed new clients because of it, and we’ve also brought in new staff members. People have said: “It was between you and this big corporation. But after what you guys did, I want to work with you.” And that makes us also feel 10 feet tall.
“There’s no better opportunity than control of your own body”
When we do execute on our “Texas rapture,” I think it’s going to be something that, for the staff members who leave, is of course, going to be sad, because there are many good reasons to like Texas. To feel that you’re a refugee from your own state because of this kind of level of political persecution is terrible. But I also want to make sure that people know that they have a partner and a friend with us, and I want them to know that we will have their back.
When the next couple of states enact their own legislation similar to Texas, I think that’s going to be the tipping point. That’s when you’re going to have major industry titans enact similar laws, and that’s probably when you will see an exodus of companies from Texas and from any other state—just because every bit of evidence shows that the more educated your workforce is, the more likely they’re willing to be mobile for the sake of a better opportunity. And there’s no better opportunity than control of your own body.