Writers Guild of America warns Georgia that ‘heartbeat’ bill may cause Hollywood to flee the state

Protesters rally outside a Georgia Senate hearing on an anti-abortion measure. AJC/Bob Andres.

Protesters rally outside a Georgia Senate hearing on an anti-abortion measure. AJC/Bob Andres.

Originally posted Tuesday, March 26, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

The Writers Guild of America released a statement Tuesday saying that if the Georgia legislature and Governor Brian Kemp were to pass the "heartbeat" abortion bill, it might cause Hollywood TV and film production to go elsewhere.

“This law would make Georgia an inhospitable place for those in the film and television industry to work, including our members,” the WGA East and West said in a joint statement. “If the Georgia Legislature and Governor Kemp make HB 481 law, it is entirely possible that many of those in our industry will either want to leave the state or decide not to bring productions there. Such is the potential cost of a blatant attack on every woman’s right to control her own body.

No production company so far has publicly stated it would explicitly pull out of the state as some did in 2016 when a “ religious liberty” bill passed the state legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

The anti-abortion bill, which would prohibit abortions in most instances around the sixth week of pregnancy, passed the Senate and is currently in the House. If it passes, Kemp has said he would sign it. As in other states, groups against the bill vow to file court motions to stop it. Similar bills passed in Kentucky and Iowa were deemed unconstitutional by judges in those states earlier this year.

The WGA letter noted that if a boycott were to happen, “the cost would be most deeply felt by the residents of Georgia – including those who directly work in the film and television industry, and those who benefit from the many millions of dollars it pours into the local economy.”

The state’s generous tax credits passed in 2008 have led to production companies pouring into the state. Over the past decade more than $2 billion in tax credits have been given out in exchange for tens of thousands of jobs and billions more in direct economic activity. Georgia is now the third biggest state in terms of film and TV production behind only New York and California.

Stacey Abrams, who lost to Kemp in the gubernatorial race in November, posted a supportive message on Twitter today calling the bill "a terrible, cynical assault on bodily autonomy and thoughtful medical care."

Actress Alyssa Milano, who is working now in metro Atlanta on the Netflix show "Insatiable," on Friday also called for a boycott of the state.