An email from a pal and colleague brings us back to previous (and still unfolding) topics, including this week’s raft of primaries — especially Georgia’s.
This epistolary-minded friend straddles the above-and-below lines of production and writes from the purple-trending-blue state of New Mexico, saying he’d read a recent column and “was interested, in particular, about the part [regarding] crews working in the states soon to have abortion bans and legal penalties.”
“You pretty much stated what I’d thought about, but it jogged me to realize ripples. Will film actors/crew who have had abortions take a chance on going into a state that may prosecute if they are found out or on record? The statute of limitations generally does not apply to murder and states looking to ban [abortion] are calling it that.”
“[I’m] also waiting for the first reports of border inspections between ban/choice states and women seeking abortions being locked up until delivery.”
With such draconian laws all but inevitable in at least half the country, how would various production-friendly states fare?
New Mexico would remain pro-choice, having recently struck down an abortion ban on its own books, that remained unenforced during the Roe Era, but which could’ve served as its own kind of “trigger law,” once the Supreme Court officially begins rolling back women’s rights. However, “antiabortion laws could take immediate effect in the flanking states of Arizona and Texas,” writes the Las Cruces Sun News.
So pro-choice activists may not have to worry about inducing an arrest warrant every time they visit an ob-gyn in either California or New Mexico, but because of the southwest’s checkerboard political demographics, they may well be kept busy with an altogether new kind of “refugee” problem.
And if one is counting on the work climate and supportive atmosphere at their own companies to help steer them through raging red seas, well, the Texas GOP is here to say “not so fast.”
As the Texas Tribune just reported, “fourteen Republican members of the state House of Representatives have pledged to introduce bills in the coming legislative session that would bar corporations from doing business in Texas if they pay for abortions in states where the procedure is legal. This would explicitly prevent firms from offering employees access to abortion-related care through health insurance benefits. It would also expose executives to criminal prosecution under pre-Roe anti-abortion laws the Legislature never repealed, the legislators say.”
So should this actually become law, that cool production company you work for in Austin will have to move. Or you will.
Meanwhile in Georgia, with its brimful of tax credits and busy production hub in Atlanta, abortion rights rhetoric is heating up the Senate race, where the GOP frontrunner has come out with an extreme, no-exceptions-forced-birth position.
How those positions will translate into Georgia state law, however, remains to be seen. Georgia State University Law Professor Anthony Michael Kreis thinks that the real question is whether “Georgia legislators want to ban every single kind of abortion possible in the state? Will they want exceptions?”
The same article goes on to note that the initial reaction to Gov. Kemp signing the Peach State’s own “fetal heartbeat bill,” currently suspended via court order while awaiting the final Roe ruling, was “a huge economic backlash in 2019 — including at least some boycott efforts from the film industry — and the governor, should he emerge from the GOP primary as the party’s gubernatorial nominee, would potentially be in an uncomfortable position with the business community if he accommodates a push to go even farther on abortion.”
It will be interesting to see if Texas and Georgia compare notes in this department.
On the other hand, Stacey Abrams, who will once again be Kemp’s opponent in the fall race for governor, has already come out once against such a “Hollywood boycott” in the wake of that previous bill, which was, at the time (and how swiftly times change), the nation’s most restrictive anti-choice legislation.
As the Atlanta Constitution-Journal’s “Jolt” political column reports, Abrams is already using that mostly successful “stand down” moment in her current campaign:
“A 30-second ad that Abrams released Thursday features a string of TV and movie production workers crediting the Democrat for convincing the film industry not to ditch Georgia after Kemp signed the state’s six-week abortion ban in 2019.”
“‘It was Stacey who got everyone together and got the film industry to stay right here in Georgia,’ said a makeup artist named Sheena. Near the end of the spot, she and two other film industry workers proclaim: ‘Stacey Abrams saved my job.’”
At the time, Abrams urged film execs to “stay and fight,” agreeing that “while there is a moral pull to say that leaving or boycotting can have an impact, my argument is there’s a stronger effect by staying and changing the power structure that allowed this bill to pass.”
But as the proposed Texas laws exemplify, “staying” may no longer be an option in many places. And as states seek an even more vise-like stranglehold on women’s rights, perhaps the fight will have no choice but to consider “pocketbook consequences.”
Because one way or another, consequences are headed everybody’s way. Even to the rarefied quarters of “showbiz.”
Mark London Williams is a BTL alum who currently covers Hollywood, its contents and discontents, in his recurring “Across the Pond” dispatch for British Cinematographer magazine, contributes to other showbiz and production-minded sites, and musters out the occasional zombie, pandemic-themed, or demon-tinged book and script, causing an increased blurring in terms of what still feels like “fiction.”