Georgia's anti-abortion law gives Netflix pause

Streaming giant Netflix has become the first major Hollywood studio to publicly weigh in on Georgia’s restrictive abortion law, with Ted Sarandos, its chief content officer, saying the company would “rethink our entire investment in Georgia” should the law go into effect.

Georgia's anti-abortion law gives Netflix pause

Signed on May 7, the so-called fetal heartbeat law prompted calls for Hollywood to boycott Georgia, a major production hub for film and television that has generated 92,000 jobs in the state and $2.7 billion in annual revenues.

While a small handful of productions canceled prospective plans to shoot in the state — location scouting for the coming series “The Power” and a new Kristen Wiig movie have been nixed — large studios, including Warner Bros. and Disney, stayed mum, unwilling to risk alienating audiences by coming down on either side. Privately, studio executives said they are hoping that the law, which bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, except in cases of rape or incest, gets struck down as unconstitutional, as has happened in other states.

If unchallenged, the law will go into effect in January 2020. Should that happen, Netflix, which has productions in the state including the series “Stranger Things” and “Ozark,” along with the coming film “Holidate,” is suggesting it might consider boycotting the state, too.

“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 in a statement released Monday, and first reported by 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.”

Hollywood’s reaction to the law has been mixed. Dozens of celebrities, including Jason Bateman, now in “Ozark,” and Alyssa Milano, of “Insatiable” — both currently in production in the state — have promised to boycott if the law goes into effect. Others, including J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele, who are producing the series “Lovecraft Country,” have said they would stay put, and donate earnings to groups fighting the law, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and Fair Fight Georgia, led by Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who narrowly lost the contested governor’s race last year.

Ron Howard has said that he would keep the production of “Hillbilly Elegy,” also from Netflix, in the state and donate to the ACLU, but that he would not return in the future should the law go into effect.

The silence from major Hollywood studios stands in contrast to their full-throated support of a boycott in 2016, when legislation curtailing gay rights passed in Georgia. The bill was ultimately vetoed by the governor at the time, Nathan Deal.

This time, the threats of a boycott appeared to have left conservatives backing the anti-abortion law unmoved. The state’s current governor, Brian Kemp, denounced the law’s Hollywood detractors as “C-list celebrities,” and the head of the National Right to Life Committee has said that Hollywood has invested too much in the state to walk away.

Georgia started to become a major production hub about a decade ago after offering incentives that allowed productions to claim 20% in tax credits and an additional 10% for attaching the state’s peach logo to the credits. Several “Hunger Games” movies, “Captain America: Civil War” and “Black Panther” are among the major films produced there.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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