In the wake of the Supreme Court's June 24 decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that established the constitutional right to abortion in the U.S. in 1973, companies throughout the country have recently publicized their intentions to extend their abortion and gender-affirming care services for employees.
This includes Microsoft, which acquired Bethesda Game Studios and its parent company ZeniMax Media last year.
According to a new report by Kotaku's Sisi Jiang, however, it appears Bethesda employees are growing frustrated with its studios' "unwillingness to clearly support their access to reproductive healthcare" — something that's seemingly been handled independently because of the limited nature of its post-acquisition integration into Microsoft.
"This is an especially pressing issue for the many Starfield and Redfall developers who are based out of states like Texas that have strict anti-abortion legislation on the books," Kotaku's report reads. "These tensions have steadily increased as heated debates have taken place in company Slack channels and management communications have failed to directly address employees’ specific concerns and demands."
According to Kotaku, a screenshot of Bethesda's company-wide "water cooler" Slack channel showed one employee's eight-paragraph rant against abortion, which Kotaku says "eventually" prompted a studio director to remove the post, lock the thread and ask employees to refrain from discussing politics and religion there.
On June 24, the official Xbox Twitter announced the company's commitment to ensuring equal access to healthcare for its employees.
"We will continue to do everything we can under the law to support our employees and enrolled dependents in accessing critical healthcare," Xbox's statement reads. "Our U.S. health plans cover lawful medical services like abortion and gender-affirming care, and we recently extended our travel benefits to include travel expense support assistance for covered medical services."
The same day, Bethesda released its own statement on Twitter, something that a company executive went on to apologize for internally to its employees, according to Kotaku.
"Many employees were disappointed at how the statement was phrased," Kotaku's report reads. "'Lifestyle' is a word that many queer people find delegitimizing, as it suggests that a person’s gender identity or sexuality is merely a matter of choice. Multiple queer employees at ZeniMax studios expressed their frustration that their employer had framed their struggles as a personal choice, prompting ZeniMax COO Jamie Leder to send an apology email about the word choice the very same day."