TV Showrunners Demand Protections In Anti-Abortion States

A group of more than 400 television producers and showrunners demanded specific policies to safeguard pregnant workers in states where abortion is prohibited in a letter sent to senior executives at Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros., Discovery, NBC Universal, Apple, and other companies on Thursday morning.

A-list celebrities including Shonda Rhimes, Issa Rae, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Natasha Lyonne, Ava DuVernay, and many more have signed the letter, which Variety was able to obtain. The Dobbs ruling, which overruled Roe v. Wade, puts the major content producers in the US on notice that their businesses must include particular protections for those working in areas with abortion bans. The letter says, in part, “It is wrong to require any person to choose between their human rights and their employment.”

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The letter intensifies the contentious debate on what businesses like Netflix and Disney should do with productions in Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas that are subject to anti-abortion laws because of Dobbs. The authors ask that regulations regarding employee privacy protection and how the businesses would pay for employees’ travel expenses for abortions be made public. For “ectopic pregnancies and other pregnancy problems that necessitate medical treatment,” they demand procedures for medical care. For anyone who aids an employee in getting an abortion, they are demanding criminal and civil indemnification.

Additionally, they demand that all businesses immediately cease “any political contributions to anti-abortion candidates and political action committees.” The letters were sent out on July 28 and the showrunners and creators are requesting formal responses from the corporations within 10 days of that date. The letter did not specify what would happen if the requests were not met by these companies, but any prospective boycotts by top personnel would undoubtedly be disastrous.

In 2019, a number of production companies, led by Netflix, stated that if Georgia’s “heartbeat” abortion ban went into place, they would think twice about shooting there. Georgia is the top state for film tax incentives. A federal appeals court removed the law’s injunction last Thursday, citing the Dobbs decision. The only thing the studios have indicated thus far is that they will cover employees’ travel costs if they are forced to leave the state to get an abortion.

The complete letter, addressed to Netflix in this case, along with its signatories, can be found below. AMC, Amazon, Paramount, Lionsgate, and Lionsgate received the letter as well. We, the undersigned, are 411 showrunners, head writers, and creators of television programmes who currently work for every network and streaming service in the business, including those owned by Netflix. We are really worried about the lack of explicit production guidelines in place to safeguard employees working for Netflix in areas with anti-abortion laws.

Any person should not be forced to choose between their employment and their human rights. Basic issues of worker safety, health, and equality are raised by this circumstance. If we were not allowed the choice to decide what was best for ourselves, many of us would not have the jobs and families we do today. As a collective, we are devoted to defending our basic human rights as well as those of our coworkers.

Pregnant people who work on one of your productions right now in states that have outlawed abortion do so at tremendous risk. It is crucial that Netflix is aware of these threats and has all the necessary safeguards in place. The goal of this letter is to assess your current safety policies and safeguards on this crucial issue in order to decide whether or not we will keep working in these high-risk settings. In order to ensure our safety, safeguard our health, and uphold our human rights, Netflix must revise its present abortion safety strategy within ten business days of today. We anticipate that your present plan’s specifications will fully address this situation, including but not limited to:

Public rules and procedures detailing how the employee’s medical privacy will be protected will be provided to employees of your productions who are eligible for an abortion travel subsidy. Protocols defining the range of medical care provided to cast and crew members working on your projects, including treatment for ectopic pregnancies and other pregnancy issues that necessitate medical abortion while doing so. Policy covering criminal and civil legal protection, including indemnification and liability defence,

for any member of a production who facilitates Netflix’s procedures or offers Netflix’s policy details and instructions to an employee seeking an abortion. Make a promise to stop giving to anti-abortion candidates and political action committees right away. Your prompt written response is necessary and is anticipated within ten business days of July 28th, 2022, as productions are presently underway in areas where abortion is prohibited or is being considered for prosecution. If you’d like, we’d be happy to discuss the written answer with representatives from your company to offer further context. The undersigned and our legal counsel shall perform our review.

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