Employees at Bethesda have grown increasingly frustrated at the company’s silence over the recent choice by the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade.
In a report by Kotaku, there has been a lack of clear support from Bethesda leadership for reproductive rights and employees’ need for accessible reproductive health care. It’s an especially pressing concern for developers based in states like Texas that have strict attitudes against abortion. Such tensions have risen within internal communicates such as in the company Slack channels, where management has failed to communicate or directly address employee’s concerns and demands.
When the US Supreme Court overturned the Roe vs Wade decision last June 24, it struck a blow against a decision that for decades, helped guarantee reproductive rights for many Americans. By doing so, the Supreme Court has rendered it permissible for individual states to effectively criminalize the act of seeking abortion, ending nationwide reproductive rights.
In response, several video game companies have expressed their stance on the matter either by reaffirming their support for women’s reproductive rights or promising to provide access to reproductive care regardless of their current living situation, and in many cases, both.
But at Bethesda, many women felt unsupported by the company’s failure to issue a clear, principle stance on reproductive rights. This lack of support is felt most strongly by those employed at Arkane Austin and Bethesda Austin, two studios based in Texas, which will be the subject of “trigger laws” — meaning laws that were previously rendered unconstitutional by Roe v Wade — that ban all abortions from the moment of conception and fertilization.
Meanwhile, employees who agree with the Supreme Court’s decision have been free to make the topic a matter of contention, with one employee posting an eight paragraph rant against abortion with Bible quotes to go with it.
Employees were already bracing for this outcome in the weeks ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision. Members of a women’s employee resource group at Bethesda sent a letter to ZeniMax leadership after the Supreme Court’s draft indicated that Roe v. Wade would be overturned and leaked to the public seven weeks prior.
“As reproductive rights have come under full attack in the U.S., the lack of response from ZeniMax leadership has been deafening. At the time of this writing, six calendar days have passed since the intent to overturn Roe vs. Wade was leaked to the public,” the email said. Two months after the email was received, Bethesda tweeted a support statement for a person’s bodily choice – the same day the Supreme Court decision was passed.
Microsoft announced that it would provide support in the form of travel assistance to employees who wished to get an abortion. But in previous reporting (also by Kotaku), it was revealed that Zenimax policies are independent of those of Microsoft. Meaning whatever health benefits or resources Microsoft promises are not guaranteed to Bethesda employees.
According to a current employee at Bethesda, most staff are supportive of abortion rights but some are dissatisfied as the recent court’s decision doesn’t seem to be reflected by the Bethesda and Zenimax management. “We waited with bated breath on Friday for the studios to issue a statement as other studios beat us to the [punch] by several hours,” said the source.