netflix threatens to boycott the state of georgia over controversial abortion bill

The streaming giant has become the first major Hollywood studio to speak out against America’s battle over abortion rights.

by Alim Kheraj
29 May 2019, 11:57am

Still from Queer Eye

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

Following a near-total abortion ban in Alabama, Georgia has announced a similarly controversial anti-abortion bill. And Netflix isn't happy. In fact, the streaming service turned Hollywood juggernaut has announced that, should the bill go ahead, they would “rethink their entire investment” in the state.

The bill, which was signed by state Governor Brian Kemp, has been dubbed the “heartbeat bill” and, should it not be deemed unconstitutional, will take effect in January 2020. It’s been described as one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States, banning the procedure once a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, which can be as early as six weeks.

Netflix’s stance is significant because, as The New York Times reported earlier this year, Hollywood has spent the last few years investing heavily in the state of Georgia due to tax breaks, with the region adopting the moniker Y’allywood. Indeed, in the last few years, huge blockbusters like The Hunger Games, Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther have all been produced there. Netflix has produced a number of its shows like Stranger Things and Ozark in the state.

“We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” said Ted Sarandos, the company’s chief content officer, in a statement to Variety, adding that Netflix would be working “with the ACLU and others to fight [the bill] in court”.

“Given the legislation has not yet been implemented,” he continued, “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.”

Netflix’s comments come after Kristen Wiig announced that her upcoming comedy film, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, which would have reunited the creative team behind her hit film Bridesmaids, would no longer be filming in the state following the signing of the bill. She later announced she would "rethink [her] entire investment" in the area.

The actor Alyssa Milano, who has been vocal regarding the #MeToo movement, also sent a letter to Georgia’s governor stating that she would never work in the state again unless the bill was scrapped. The letter has since been signed by Don Cheadle, Amy Schumer, Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, Laverne Cox, Patricia Arquette and many others. Meanwhile, Hollywood bigwigs like J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele, who are all working on productions in Georgia, have said that they will donate their salaries to causes fighting the bill.

Interestingly, Netflix is the only major Hollywood studio to speak out publicly regarding the state's proposed bill. Other studios, such as Disney and Warner Bros., have remained quiet about the situation, with The New York Times reporting that, behind closed doors, execs are quietly hoping that the bill is deemed unconstitutional. Nevertheless, back in 2016 when Georgia signed a religious freedom bill that was criticised as anti-gay, Disney were vocal when it came to a proposed boycott of the state. It’s further proof just how divisive the issue of abortion is in the United States.

Georgia’s “heartbeat bill” follows the recent uproar surrounding Alabama’s newly passed abortion law, which banned the procedure in nearly all cases except if there is a “serious health risk” to the mother. Both bills stand in contradiction of the 1973 Roe v Wade precedent, which upholds a woman's right to abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy on a constitutional level. Still, there is increasing concern that, given President Trump’s appointments to the Supreme Court, the precedent could be reversed.

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

Abortion Rights