Hollywood is taking a stand against new abortion restrictions in the US, with Netflix, Disney and Warner Media signalling plans to remove business from one of the states central to the introduction of strict pro-life laws.
The shoot location of massive recent hits like The Avengers movies, Georgia has long offered tax advantages for studios in a bid to lure TV and film industry jobs to the south-eastern ‘Peach’ state.
But that could soon change, with some big-name production companies this week threatening to pull out of the area amid the state’s plans to ban women getting terminations as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
Celebrities including Amy Schumer, Ben Stiller, Alyssa Milano, Minnie Driver, Mia Farrow, Sean Penn and Alec Baldwin have also promised to boycott any filming jobs in the state if the law goes ahead.
Responding after the so-called “heartbeat bill” was signed by Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp, Hollywood stars signed an open letter against the “dangerous and deeply flawed bill”.
They slammed the planned law as “evil” and said they would advocate to take industry business to states that were safer for women.
To @BrianKempGA & Speaker Ralston:
Attached, is an open letter signed by 50 actors against #HB481. On behalf of the undersigned–as people often called to work in GA or those of us contractually bound to work in GA–we hope you'll reconsider signing this bill. #HBIsBadForBusiness pic.twitter.com/DsOmAWYU2x
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) March 28, 2019
Kristen Wiig, of Bridesmaids fame, told CNN that her new comedy had pulled out of filming in the state.
Actor Jason Bateman, who stars in the Georgia-filmed Netflix show Ozark, told The Hollywood Reporter: “I will not work in Georgia, or any other state, that is so disgracefully at odds with women’s rights.”
Netflix told Variety it would “rethink” its business in Georgia, too.
Since then, Hollywood powerhouses Disney and Warner signalled they are prepared to join the fight.
Disney chief executive Bob Iger said it would be “very difficult” for the media company to continue filming in Georgia if strict new abortion laws come into effect in January as planned.
“I rather doubt we will,” Mr Iger said in an interview with Reuters.
“I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now we are watching it very carefully.”
Warner Media issued a statement on Friday morning (Australian time) confirming it will reconsider Georgia as a filming site should the newly signed abortion law go into effect.
“We operate and produce work in many states and within several countries at any given time and while that doesn’t mean we agree with every position taken by a state or a country and their leaders, we do respect due process,” entertainment giant said,
Georgia is one of eight states including Ohio, Alabama and Missouri to pass anti-abortion legislation this year for the purpose of inducing the US Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 landmark case that established a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy (known as Roe v Wade).
Earlier in May, Alabama decided to outlaw abortion passing controversial state legislation that bans abortions at every stage of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest, and criminalises the procedure.
If the law goes ahead there, doctors who perform termination procedures could be charged and face up to 99 years in prison.
Today, I signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act. To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious & that every life is a sacred gift from God. https://t.co/DwKJyAjSs8 pic.twitter.com/PIUQip6nmw
— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) May 15, 2019
While individual filmmakers and stars have threatened boycotts, large-scale production companies have been largely silent on the abortion bans, with some critics and US media noting that the outcry over Georgia’s 2016 religious freedom bill, which was seen as anti-gay, was far greater.
Film industry media company Variety wrote that it contacted many of the US’s most powerful content creators, but only Netflix responded.
Disney has since commented to Reuters.
The streaming service’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos told Variety that Netflix would “rethink” its “entire investment” in Georgia.
“We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” Mr Sarandos said.
“It’s why we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court. Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there, while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to. Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”