Major Studios May Eventually Re-Evaluate Georgia If Abortion Law Survives Legal Challenge
A flood of major entertainment companies have issued cautious statements about future filming in Georgia if a new abortion law takes effect, amidst national calls for a boycott and local concern over the state's booming film and television industry.
CBS, Sony, AMC, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, Disney and Netflix will monitor what could be a lengthy legal fight over the Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act, which would effectively ban abortions in the state except for cases of rape and incest with a police report, when the health of the mother is in jeopardy or the pregnancy is declared "medically futile."
The law also gives personhood rights to an embryo once cardiac activity is detected.
Disney CEO Bob Iger told Reuters Wednesday it would be "very difficult" to continue to produce projects in Georgia if the state's abortion law survived legal challenge.
"Many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we'll have to heed their wishes in that regard," Iger said.
Today, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia issued statements with similar sentiments.
"We fully expect that the heartbeat bills and similar laws in various states will face serious legal challenges and will not go into effect while the process proceeds in court," NBCUniversal's statement reads. "If any of these laws are upheld, it would strongly impact our decision-making on where we produce our content in the future."
WarnerMedia, the parent company of HBO, Atlanta-based CNN and TBS among others, said in part "we do respect due process. We will watch the situation closely and if the new law holds we will reconsider Georgia as the home to any new productions."
AMC, whose program "The Walking Dead" is shot in Senoia and other places around the state, said Thursday afternoon it would also wait to make any programming decisions until the courts have weighed in.
“If this highly restrictive legislation goes into effect, we will reevaluate our activity in Georgia," a spokesman said. "Similar bills – some even more restrictive – have passed in multiple states and have been challenged. This is likely to be a long and complicated fight and we are watching it all very closely.
Although the bill is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2020, the legal process of challenging the abortion ban and the personhood provision could take years to have a final resolution. Sony Pictures said it will "continue to monitor that process in close consultation with our filmmakers and television showrunners, talent and other stakeholders as we consider our future production options."
Most recently, CBS told the Hollywood Reporter it would also monitor legal developments in Georgia and will continue to produce its series.
"Creative voices across our industry have expressed strong concern about the recently signed bill in Georgia. The ability to attract the best talent is the first step in producing great entertainment content and is always an important consideration in where we film any series," said a rep for the company. "We are monitoring the legislative and legal developments in Georgia with the full expectation that the process in the courts will play out for some time. For now, we will continue producing our series based there that have production orders for next season. If the law takes effect in Georgia or elsewhere, these may not be viable locations for our future production."
Earlier this week, Netflix said it might "rethink" investment in Georgia if the bill became law. Several Hollywood stars have called for a boycott of the state for film and television projects, while local politicians and reproductive rights groups are urging them to stay.
Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has been an outspoken opponent of the bill, and tweeted that Georgia politicians are "creating an inhospitable climate for women."
Updated 5/30/19 at 6:40 p.m. to change headline and add comments from AMC, CBS and Sony.