Now that Georgia has passed its “heartbeat” abortion bill into law, more than 50 stars, producers and writers have refused to work in the state.
In 2018, some 455 films and television series were made in the state of Georgia.
The major proponent of this is Marvel, whose movies Black Panther, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Spider-Man: Homecoming and the Avengers Infinity War and Endgame were all filmed in the region. In the past Georgia has also played host to everything from Stranger Things to The Hunger Games, Baby Driver to The Walking Dead.
The state now boasts 1.2 million square feet of soundstages in which to film. All told, these productions injected $9.5 billion (£7.2 million) into the Georgian economy.
That is an enormous investment on the part of Hollywood into this American region. Which is why the fact that more than 50 stars and writers have refused to work in the state, now that Georgia’s lawmakers have legalised a bill forbidding abortions after six weeks, is so important.
This “heartbeat” bill, as it is known, wants to restrict a woman’s access to an abortion after she is six weeks pregnant. It is terrifying for a few reasons. Firstly, many women don’t even know that they are pregnant at six weeks. But secondly – and more unsettlingly – the bill has received an enormous amount of support by lawmakers in Georgia and is part of a wider trend to restrict abortion rights in America. Both Kentucky and Michigan have legalised heartbeat bills in 2019. Georgia passed their iteration last week.
“The Senate affirmed Georgia’s commitment to life and the rights of the innocent unborn,” Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp said in a statement. “I applaud the members who supported the heartbeat bill’s passage for protecting the vulnerable and giving a voice to those who cannot yet speak for themselves.”
The success of the heartbeat bill in these three states is leading at least 12 other American states to consider introducing six week bans of their own, according to reports.
The latest Hollywood star to take a stand is Tiffany Haddish, who has cancelled her upcoming stand-up performance in Atlanta in protest at the so-called “heartbeat bill”.
In an official statement to ticketholders, the Girls Trip star explained that she is refusing to perform in Georgia until the six-week abortion ban is rescinded, making her the first celebrity to actually cancel a show in the conservative Southern state.
“After much deliberation, I am postponing my upcoming show in Atlanta,” Haddish wrote. “I love the state of Georgia, but I need to stand with women and until they withdraw Measure HB481, I cannot in good faith perform there.”
Haddish is the latest celebrity in the entertainment industry to speak out over the controversial restrictions in the state. Led by Alyssa Milano, who penned an emotional opinion piece for Deadline on the subject, the movement has received support from Amy Schumer, Alec Baldwin, Gabrielle Union, Mandy Moore, Mark Hamill, Ben Stiller, Sarah Silverman, Christina Applegate, Sean Penn, Patton Oswalt, Uzo Aduba, Seth Green, Ashley Judd, Amber Tamblyn and Don Cheadle, who is a key part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in his role as superhero War Machine in the Iron Man franchise.
The heads of three major production companies have also sworn not to produce anything in Georgia until the legislation is reversed. This includes Christine Vachon of Killer Films, the production company behind Carol and Vox Lux, David Simon of Blown Deadline productions who has led TV shows including The Wire an The Deuce, and Mark Duplass, the man behind Wild Wild Country and Co-Ed. “Don’t give your business to Georgia,” Duplass tweeted. “Will you pledge with me not to film anything in Georgia until they reverse this backwards legislation?”
Ted Sarandos, chief content office of Netflix, has also spoken out against the abortion ban. In a statement to Variety, he conceded that the company will continue to work and support the local film industry in Georgia until the bill is passed into law, but that if and when that becomes a reality the company would seriously reconsider its production 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,” Sarandos said. “It’s why we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court…. Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”
Also rethinking their investment in Georgia is Disney, the studio behind Marvel movies like Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame and Ant, which all filmed in Atlanta. Today, Disney’s CEO Bob Iger has said that the company is paying close attention to the progress of Georgia’s Heartbeat Bill.
“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,” Iger told Reuters. “Right now we are watching it very carefully.”
In her story for Deadline, Milano called the heartbeat bill “the most anti-woman bill of its kind in the country”.
“Each time leaders in the film industry schedule a production, they think very carefully about where we are going to film it. Women are increasingly in these decision-making roles,” Milano explained. “Women who work in Georgia’s film industry – many of them visiting from other states – need access to safe and legal reproductive care, including their constitutional right to an abortion.”
Milano then addressed Georgia’s lawmakers directly, writing: “I urge you to think hard before making Georgia a state that is not welcoming of women.”
Currently, there are 20 films and television series in production in the state. That includes one starring Milano: the second season of Netflix’s Insatiable. If the bill is passed into law, Milano has pledged that she will no longer work in the state, and more than 50 other stars have joined with her.
Milano has also encouraged women to join in what she calls a “sex strike” until the abortion ban is lifted. “Until women have legal control over our own bodies, we just cannot risk pregnancy,” Milano tweeted. The sex strike has proven controversial, however, with many criticising Milano for treating sex as a punishment for men. “I hate the idea that not having sex is a punishment for men but not a woman,” writer Jessica Valenti tweeted. “I like sex! Why should I deprive myself of it? And lots of women don’t fuck men anyway!”
Milano conceded that the sex strike was a spur of the moment tweet, but that the intention was to continue protesting against Georgia’s restrictive abortion laws. (“I sent a tweet last night,” Milano told Associated Press. “I haven’t really thought much past this morning.”) But Milano reinforced her position to continue fighting for women’s rights in her open letter to the state’s politicians.
“We want to stay in Georgia,” the open letter from Milano and the network of Hollywood stars read. “We want to continue to support the wonderful people, businesses and communities we have come to love in the Peachtree State. But we will not do so silently, and we will do everything in our power to move our industry to a safer state for women if [this bill] becomes law. You have a choice, gentlemen. We pray you make the right one.”