The coalition of women TV showrunners and creators demanding abortion safety plans from studios is not backing down. Following the non-response/fuck-you companies including Disney, Netflix, AppleTV+, and Warner Bros Discovery issued last week via the Motion Picture Association (MPA), the coalition has sent a second letter to studio presidents and board members, Variety reports. The MPA was cc’d.
The original 400-plus signatories, as well as the directors and male TV execs who released their own declarations of support, stressed that the studios’ August 10 statement doesn’t even come close to guaranteeing employees receive adequate reproductive healthcare and legal protections, as the July 28 letter required.
“We appreciate your stated mutual concern for safeguarding employees’ health, safety, and privacy, but your assertions fall far short of a response sufficient to ensure workplace safety and prevent inevitable gender discrimination within our industry,” the coalition wrote. “Travel reimbursement, while necessary coverage, is not an adequate remedy for the denial of emergency reproductive healthcare that is an inevitable result of an abortion ban. In states where abortion is criminalized, an employee could be denied a lifesaving intervention in an ectopic pregnancy; a pregnant employee involved in an accident could be denied an X-ray on the grounds it may harm the embryo or fetus; and an employee suffering a pregnancy loss could be denied medically-necessary miscarriage management. Furthermore, the current travel reimbursements do not extend to non-union employees like PAs who are not covered under a union health plan.”
The group has once again outlined their expectations and set a due date for their implementation. By 11:59 p.m. PST on Labor Day (September 5), they want a “clear, detailed, and uniform plan of action to ensure all employees and other production workers have access to lifesaving healthcare in the case of ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, placental abruption, sudden onset preeclampsia, etc. This plan should include a guarantee that all employees and other production workers in need of emergency reproductive healthcare can be transported expeditiously across state lines, to minimize the likelihood of injury or death.”
The letter also calls for a guarantee of privacy regarding abortion access; a guarantee of job security and non-retaliation for those who must take time off to travel for reproductive healthcare; guaranteed coverage of any legal fees, court expenses, and fines incurred as a result of so-called “abortion-related crimes”; the placement of a Reproductive Health Care Officer at every production filming in “an abortion-hostile location”; and the creation of a Reproductive Health Care Working Group, which should include one or more C-Suite representatives from each company.
As the coalition points out, if these protections are not established, “only women and people who can become pregnant will be forced to assume an unacceptable level of risk when working in states hostile to abortion. This would constitute gender and pregnancy discrimination, as it forces women and people who can become pregnant to make decisions about their employment that a man who cannot become pregnant would never have to make.”
They’re exactly right, of course. As much as we like to tip-toe around it being “up to the voters” or “an ethical issue,” the fight for abortion access and reproductive healthcare comes down to whether you believe a person should be able to control what happens to their own body. And a whole lot of people don’t like the idea of women, non-binary folks, and/or folks with uteruses making those decisions for themselves.
“An abortion costs $500 and that doesn’t include the travel costs required now for many to access this vital healthcare,” a coalition member told Women and Hollywood. “Most people requiring an abortion are already mothers and cannot afford the mental, physical, and/or financial wear of giving birth and raising another child. Abortion saves lives, it saves sanity, it saves well-being, it saves women.”
Additionally, the source reveals that the coalition is also turning its attention to raising money for the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF). The Hollywood Fund for Abortion Relief has already raised over $2.5 million, about half of its overall target. The coalition chose to support the NNAF because it provides “the most immediate impact on people who are in states where they could really be in a lot of trouble, and really need assistance.”
I’m part of a group of showrunners/creators who are raising money to help people access abortion. Help us raise $5 million for this vital work! @abortionfunds #abortionishealthcare #hollywood4abortionaccess pic.twitter.com/58G7eYBwzP
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) August 15, 2022
Disappointingly, the group has dropped its initial demand that studios stop donating to anti-choice candidates and PACs, based on advice from execs they’re working with. They plan to form a “watchdog group” and publicly call out companies when they make these types of contributions — which people already do regularly. This plan would be more effective if corporations showed any genuine shame or remorse or desire to be better, but, of course, they don’t.
The showrunners Variety spoke to lauded Lionsgate — a recipient of the July 28 letter that did not sign the August 10 response — for committing to protecting employees who are able to get pregnant. On August 12, CEO Jon Feltheimer sent a staff letter reading: “the reproductive rights of every employee must be protected, individual choice will be safeguarded, and access to necessary health services will be prioritized. We are currently engaged in the process of developing a thoughtful and comprehensive policy to carry out this mandate – one that factors in health insurance issues, the legal and regulatory frameworks of the states in which we operate, and a host of other issues.”
“There is a model there to see them very quickly snap into focus around something which involved the life and death and safety of their workers,” a member of the coalition said of Lionsgate. Variety’s sources described the other studios’ statement “underwhelming” and “patronizing.”
The good news is is that the coalition will continue to push for abortion protections, no matter if or how Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros, et al. respond on Labor Day. “It’s not going to be over in a couple of weeks,” one showrunner said. “It took 50 years to undo Roe, and it’s going to take another 50 years potentially to get abortion rights back for American women across the board.”
Read the full letter the coalition sent to Disney on August 15 over at Variety.