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Sheryl Sandberg steps into the abortion struggle with an ACLU donation

Sheryl Sandberg opened her next chapter as a full-time philanthropist Tuesday with a donation to the American Civil Liberties Union to fight statewide abortion bans.

Sandberg, who officially left his position as chief operating officer of parent company Facebook Meta last week after 14 years, donated $3 million to ACLU’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg Liberty Center. The ACLU plans to use the funds to support candidates and voting for abortion rights, as well as defend the rights of pregnant women in state courts and legislatures over the next three years.

Sandberg told The Associated Press in an interview that it was “unthinkable” that her three daughters had fewer rights to “their own health care, their own body, their own destiny” than she did. He wanted to get to work immediately to change that.

“As I leave Meta and look at the next phase of my life and what I want to do and dedicate myself to, these are issues that I think are very fundamental to who we women as a society are,” Sandberg said. “Now is the time. The state election is now. And the next cycle is two years away.”

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, said Sandberg’s donation was the largest ever given to the ACLU’s political wing for abortion rights. The funds will help support the organization’s abortion rights strategy shift back to the state legislature following the Supreme Court ruling in Women’s Health Organization Dobbs v. It was Jackson who discovered that there was no constitutional right to abortion.

“It will be decades before we can clean up this mess through litigation,” he said. “We’re going back there. We will re-establish the basic right to abortion at the federal level. There will be another case that overturns Dobbs. But it will take decades.”

Sandberg partnered with the ACLU because he believed fighting for reproductive rights required a political component after the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade. The political donations were made by Sandberg personally and did not come from the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, which he says will remain the centerpiece of his philanthropic work. Political contributions are not tax deductible.

Although ACLU’s donations are separate from her philanthropic work, Sandberg says the “connective network” is supporting women, as she does through Lean In and Option B, nonprofit initiatives named after two of her bestsellers.

“Lean In is about giving women the opportunities that men have – women of color, women of all backgrounds, women with less access to resources – giving them the opportunity to choose their own path, determine their own direction, be a leader.” he said. . “There is nothing more basic than controlling our own bodies, our own reproductive rights, and our own reproductive health.”

“Option B is about overcoming tragedy and adversity,” he added. “And what’s happening here is that we’re creating difficulties that shouldn’t be created for the women in our country who need the most help.”

Romero said the ACLU was already fighting laws to further restrict abortion in some states and bringing in laws to challenge abortion bans in others, as well as struggling to keep abortion clinics open in some states.

“The battles of the future must be for the hearts and minds of the American electorate,” Romero said. “More of the American public agrees with us than with the Supreme Court, so we have to find ways to improve the political process. If the court says, ‘We’ll let the states decide,’ well, okay, let the voters decide – not this governor, not the state legislature independent of their own constituency.”

Sandberg, 52, has a net worth of about $1.6 billion, according to Forbes. He announced in June that he would be leaving Meta—though he remains on its board—to focus on his foundation and his philanthropic work. That remains his intention, focusing his efforts on gender equality, he said.

“A lot has to be better for women,” she said. “We need to do much better for women in leadership. We need so much better for women of color. We need to do much better for women everywhere in the country.”

The work started with abortion rights, Sandberg said, adding that “this issue is an issue where we’ve taken one of the biggest steps back — a step back that none of us believed could happen.”


Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits received support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is fully responsible for this content. For all AP philanthropy coverage, visit

Glenn Gamboa, The Associated Press

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