What You’re Reading: Abortion Restrictions and Meeting Venues 

In July, the most-read news stories in PCMA’s News Junkie grappled with the fallout of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade — and how it is impacting events.

Author: Barbara Palmer       

protests at Supreme Court building

Demonstrator gather outside the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has led event organizers to debate holding meetings in states with new abortion restrictions. (Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash)

Every weekday, Convene’s editors send out News Junkie, a newsletter digest of stories about the business events industry and related trends from news outlets around the world. Seeing which stories are most popular with News Junkie’s thousands of subscribers is one way we can get a sense of which issues are the most important to you.

In July, two topics emerged as clear leaders. One was the state of air travel in the United States — readers clicked on stories about the best and worst airlines, the worst airports in terms of delays (and similar tales of woe), during a summer travel season marred by long lines and cancellations.

But the top story, demonstrated by the number of readers who clicked on stories on this topic, was a political one — the dilemma that meeting organizers face in holding meetings in states where abortion restrictions are, or are likely to be, in place following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24. Meeting organizers are grappling with questions, including those coming from meeting attendees, about whether it goes against their values — or risks the safety of their attendees — to meet in states where the abortion is newly restricted.

There are no easy answers. The Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) canceled a regional meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2019, citing that state’s restrictive abortion laws (and where abortion is now banned with very limited exceptions). Earlier this summer, SGO’s board of directors convened a special meeting to decide whether or not to go forward with its 2023 meeting, to be held in Tampa, Florida, where a new law banning abortion after 15 weeks is newly in effect, and under legal challenge.

SGO’s board decided to go ahead with the meeting, SGO’s board wrote in a statement published on their website. While financial commitments to event venues and area vendors informed the final decision to stay in Florida, they wrote, other factors contributed to the final decision. “In future event contracts, a frustration of purpose clause will be included, allowing for greater financial flexibility to relocate if political climates or other factors misalign with the organization’s mission and member commitments.”

But the key reason for going ahead with the meeting, the statement said, was because of the opportunity the meeting would give SGO to fulfill its mission of ending gynecologic cancer through education and collaboration. “We asked each other,” the statement continued, “[i]n what ways can we use our commitments to advocacy, education, research, and interdisciplinary collaboration for good, regardless of meeting location?”

Stay tuned: Earlier this month, PCMA convened a roundtable in Washington, D.C., where more than a dozen meeting professionals and industry experts discussed the complexities of the topic. You can read highlights of that discussion online now, and they will be published in the September issue of Convene magazine.

Barbara Palmer is deputy editor of Convene.