Last week (May 7), Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act,” the state’s restrictive abortion law that prohibits the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy. It is set to go into effect January 1, 2020, but Hollywood—which spent $2.7 billion on productions in Georgia last year—is protesting now.
Opponents of the law call it a “heartbeat ban” because it makes abortion illegal once a fetal heartbeat can be detected on an ultrasound—which is possible when a person is six weeks pregnant. Reproductive rights activists say it is essentially a way to strip pregnant people of the option of having an abortion. This is because six weeks of pregnancy occurs just two weeks after a missed menstrual period, when many people do not know they are pregnant.
Georgia, which has a population that is 40 percent people of color, already faces numerous challenges regarding reproductive health care. It has a shortage of obstetricians and one of the highest maternal death rates in the country, reports The New York Times.
Georgia’s law is the fourth “heartbeat ban” passed in 2019, with similar laws in Kentucky, Ohio and Mississippi. However, in each of those states, legal injunctions occurred before the laws took effect. The Georgia law has not been challenged, although American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) leadership said that the organization will file a lawsuit.
After offering 30 percent tax credits to production companies in 2008, Georgia has become a popular place to shoot movies and television shows. Studios such as Disney, Sony and Lionsgate have filmed there, and productions including the film “Black Panther” and television shows “The Walking Dead” and “Stranger Things” were shot in Georgia. According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), productions brought 92,000 jobs to the state last year.
Now in the wake of the abortion law, producers and actors are asserting that they will not film in a place that is curtailing reproductive rights. As Colorlines previously reported, when the bill was passed in the state legislature, 50 actors signed an open letter saying that they will work to move their projects out of Georgia because of the law. Written by Alyssa Milano, signees included Uzo Aduba, Don Cheadle, Gabrielle Union and Laverne Cox.
Now that it has become a law, Jordan Peele (“Get Out”) and J.J. Abrams (“Lost”), who are about to shoot a new HBO show “Lovecraft Country,” said they will remain in Georgia because they are set to begin filming in weeks. However, they announced on Friday that 100 percent of their episodic fees will be donated to the ACLU of Georgia and Fair Fight Action, a Stacey Abrams-helmed electoral protection group.
“Governor Kemp’s ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion law is an unconstitutional effort to further restrict women and their health providers from making private medical decisions on their terms. Make no mistake, this is an attack aimed squarely and purposely at women,” the pair said in a statement.
I can’t ask any female member of any film production with which I am involved to so marginalize themselves or compromise their inalienable authority over their own bodies. I must undertake production where the rights of all citizens remain intact. Other filmmakers will see this. https://t.co/V2xDPKiMpo— David Simon (@AoDespair) May 8, 2019
While individuals in Hollywood are taking action, the MPAA is playing the waiting game. Per Rolling Stone, the organization’s leadership said:
Film and television production in Georgia supports more than 92,000 jobs and brings significant economic benefits to communities and families. It is important to remember that similar legislation has been attempted in other states, and has either been enjoined by the courts or is currently being challenged. The outcome in Georgia will also be determined through the legal process. We will continue to monitor developments.
But as The Washington Post notes, studios often make decisions about locations more than a year in advance, meaning there is not necessarily time to wait and see what is determined by courts.
To date, five production companies have pledged not to shoot in the state until the law is overturned.