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Hollywood’s Showdown Against Georgia’s Anti-Abortion Bill

Disney Netflix Georgia
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May 30, 2019 5:20 p.m.

There’s no business like show business. Unless your state passes one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country, in which case you face no show business at all.

In 2018, Georgia announced a record 455 film and television productions shot in the state. The Motion Picture Association of America said the film industry had provided Georgia with 92,100 jobs and almost $4.6 billion in total wages.

Due to Georgia’s generous tax incentives for production studios, producers for shows like The Walking Dead and Stranger Things have been flocking to Atlanta for over a decade. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a company can get up to a 30 percent tax credit after spending at least $500,000 in the state. And unlike California, known as the heartland of American showbiz, Georgia doesn’t have an annual cap on tax credits.

But thanks to Georgia’s highly restrictive “fetal heartbeat” law that bans abortion six weeks after conception, the “Hollywood of the South” is now facing some turbulence.

Hollywood’s first warning shot to Georgia came on March 28, when actress and activist Alyssa Milano sent an open letter signed by 49 other film celebrities to Gov. Brian Kemp (R) that pledged to pressure industry executives and studios to pull out of the state if the heartbeat bill were signed into law. Co-signers included Mia Farrow, Ben Stiller, and Don Cheadle.

“We’ve been glad to bring billions of dollars in revenue to support Georgia’s schools, parks, and communities. But we cannot in good conscience continue to recommend our industry remain in Georgia if H.B 481 becomes law,” the letter read. “We can’t imagine being elected officials who had to say to their constituents ‘I enacted a law that was so evil, it chased billions of dollars out of our state’s economy.’ It’s not the most effective campaign slogan, but rest assured we’ll make it yours should it come to pass.”

Regardless, Kemp signed the bill on May 7.

Variety reported this week that the film giant Netflix was going to “rethink” its “entire investment” in Georgia if the law came into effect.

“We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, told Variety. “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.”

Then on Wednesday, Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger told Reuters that the abortion law would make it “very difficult” for Disney to continue production in Georgia.

“I rather doubt we will,” Igor said when asked if Disney would keep filming in the state if the law prevailed. “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.”

If so, that would strike a huge blow to the state that provided a backdrop for Disney’s Marvel movies such as “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Endgame.”

Kemp’s response so far? Shrug it all off and laugh at “C-list celebrities.”

“I understand that some folks don’t like this new law,” the governor said during the Georgia Republican convention on May 18. “I’m fine with that. We’re elected to do what’s right — and standing up for precious life is always the right thing to do.”

“We are the party of freedom and opportunity,” Kemp continued. “We value and protect innocent life — even though that makes C-list celebrities squawk.”

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