Issa Rae, Shonda Rhimes, 400+ others demand Hollywood studios protect workers’ abortion rights

Issa Rae, Shonda Rhimes and Angela Kang ("The Walking Dead") all signed a letter sent to major Hollywood studios seeking more specific protocols regarding employees working in states like Georgia that severely restricted or ban abortion. AP

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Issa Rae, Shonda Rhimes and Angela Kang ("The Walking Dead") all signed a letter sent to major Hollywood studios seeking more specific protocols regarding employees working in states like Georgia that severely restricted or ban abortion. AP

States like Georgia and Texas have severely restricted or banned access to abortion.

More than 400 female Hollywood producers and showrunners have signed a letter outlining demands that major studios working in states that ban or severely restrict abortion like Georgia provide proper protections for female employees who become pregnant.

Variety broke the story, publishing a copy of the letter sent specifically to Netflix. The publication said comparable letters were sent to other studios including Warner Bros. Discovery, NBC Universal and Apple. All these studios create TV shows and movies in Georgia, where a “heartbeat” abortion law was recently enacted that restricts nearly all abortions after six weeks.

“We have grave concerns about the lack of specific production protocols in place to protect those at work for Netflix in anti-abortion states,” the letter said. “It is unacceptable to ask any person to choose between their human rights and their employment. Many of us would not have the careers and families we have today if we had not been granted the freedom to choose what was best for ourselves.”

Georgia is currently the third most popular state in the nation for film and TV behind only New York and California, where there are minimal abortion restrictions.

The letter seeks specific plans, if any, for companies to subsidize travel for employees who need to get an abortion in a different state and how they might help women with pregnancy complications and ectopic pregnancies. They also want legal protection in states that might try to criminalize people who aid and abet others who seek an abortion. And they are asking studios to stop donating to anti-abortion politicians and political action committees.

Among the notable names who signed the letter include “Insecure” star and producer Issa Rae, “Bridgerton” and “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes and “Gilmore Girls” and “The Amazing Ms. Maisel” showrunner Amy Sherman Palladino. Others include Lake Bell, Natasha Lyonne, Sara Bareilles, Vanessa Bayer, Rachel Bloom, Whitney Cummings, Amber Ruffin, Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham, Chelsea Handler and Mindy Kaling.

Several of the women who signed the letter have produced shows in Georgia including Mara Brock Alil (“The Game,” “Being Mary Jane”), Westminster Schools alum Sallie Patrick (”Dynasty”), Ava DuVernay (”Naomi,” “DMZ”), Lena Waithe (”Twenties”), Julie Plec (”Vampire Diaries,””Legacies,” “The Originals”) and Angela Kang (”The Walking Dead”).

In 2019, a few actors led by Alyssa Milano expressed displeasure over Georgia’s anti-abortion law, which Gov. Brian Kemp signed. Milano even publicly called for a boycott of the state. Only a handful of smaller production companies echoed her sentiment. The controversy died down when the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled that the bill was unconstitutional. The state appealed the ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which didn’t make its decision to allow the bill to go into effect until after the Supreme Court last month overturned Roe v. Wade.

So far, none of the major production companies, who have taken full advantage over the past 14 years of Georgia’s very generous tax credits, have made any public statements regarding the state’s abortion law or any actions they might take related to it.

The letter requests a response within 10 business days but does not say what the producers will do if they are not satisfied with how the studios handle these issues.

Here is the letter to Netflix Variety received:

We, the undersigned, are 411 show creators, showrunners and head writers who currently work across every network and streaming platform in the industry today, including those controlled by Netflix.

We have grave concerns about the lack of specific production protocols in place to protect those at work for Netflix in anti-abortion states.

It is unacceptable to ask any person to choose between their human rights and their employment. This situation raises basic matters of equality, health, and safety in the workplace. Many of us would not have the careers and families we have today if we had not been granted the freedom to choose what was best for ourselves. We are committed, as a group, to protecting our fundamental human rights and those of our colleagues.

Currently, any pregnant person working on one of your productions in states that have criminalized abortion does so at great risk. It is important that Netflix understands these risks and has comprehensive solutions in place. The purpose of this letter is to review your current safety protocols and protections on this vital matter to determine whether or not we will continue to work in these high risk environments.

Within ten business days of today we require review of your current abortion safety plan detailing Netflix’s policies and processes to ensure our safety, protect our health and defend our human rights. We expect that the specifics of your current plan address this emergency in full, including but not limited to:

● Published policies and procedures to provide an abortion travel subsidy for employees of your productions including specific information on how the employee’s medical privacy will be safeguarded.

● Protocols outlining the scope of medical care for employees of your productions, including ectopic pregnancies and other pregnancy complications that require medical treatment via abortion while working for Netflix.

● Policy regarding criminal and civil legal protection, including indemnification and defense against liability, for any member of a production who facilitates Netflix’s protocols or provides Netflix’s policy information and guidelines to an employee seeking an abortion.

● Pledge to discontinue all political donations to anti-abortion candidates and political action committees immediately.

As productions are currently in progress in states where abortion is illegal or pending criminalization, your immediate written response is required and expected within ten business days of July 28th, 2022. We also welcome the opportunity to review the written response with your company representatives for additional context should you wish. Our review will be conducted by the undersigned and our legal representatives.

Signed,

Megan Abbott, Diane Ademu-John, Ali Adler, Pamela Adlon, Abby Ajayi, Desiree Akhavan, Zakiyyah Alexander, Bisha K. Ali, Gabrielle Allan, Kayla Alpert, Sofia Alvarez, Jane Anderson, Lucia Aniello, Amy Aniobi, Valerie Armstrong, Nicole Jefferson Asher, Michelle Ashford, Liz Astrof, Meredith Averill, Rachel Axler, Annie Baker, Gemma Baker, Jenna Bans, Carol Barbee, Sara Bareilles, Tanya Barfield, Kate Barnow, Kristen Bartlett, Vanessa Bayer, Nichole Beattie, Monica Beletsky, Lake Bell, Shaz Bennett, Eleanor Bergstein, Julia Bicknell, Jenny Bicks, Jocelyn Bioh, Ashley Nicole Black, Amy Bloom, Rachel Bloom, Andrea Thornton Bolden, Kathryn Borel, Hannah Bos, Rebecca Boss, Yvette Bowser, Christine Boylan, Patricia Breen, Kelli Breslin, Corinne Brinkerhoff, Mara Brock Akil, Aline Brosh McKenna, Jess Brownell, Julia Brownell, Carrie Brownstein, Gemma Burgess, Sarah Burgess, Lila Byock, Jennifer Cacicio, Gloria Calderon Kellett, Wendy Calhoun, Sheila Callaghan, Dana Calvo, Kat Candler, Kay Cannon, Erin Cardillo, Bridget Carpenter, Charise Castro Smith, Ilene Chaiken, Yahlin Chang, Hailey Chavez, Semi Chellas, Cindy Chupack, Zoanne Clack, Eliza Clark, Maisha Closson, Diablo Cody, Anne Cofell Saunders, Leila Cohan, Emily Cook, Akela Cooper, Fernanda Coppel, Elizabeth Craft, Jennifer Crittenden, Aïda Mashaka Croal, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, Whitney Cummings, Alexandra Cunningham, Michelle DeanJamie Denbo, Chelsea Devantez, Lydia Diamond, Marnie Dickens, Cara DiPaolo, Katie Dippold, Kiley Donovan, Savannah Dooley, Bash Doran, Karey Dornetto, Caroline Dries, Ariel Dumas, Lena Dunham, Cirocco Dunlap, Ava DuVernay, Laura Eason, Grace Edwards, Kerry Ehrin, Erin Ehrlich, Diane English, Anya Epstein, Maya Erskine, Jane Espenson, Bridget Everett, Sarah Fain, Gina Fattore, Halley Feiffer, Liz Feldman, Nancy Fichman, Hannah Fidell, Debra J. Fisher, Lang Fisher, Anna Fishko, Jennifer Flackett, Liz Flahive, Stephany Folsom, Leah Fong, Claudia Forestieri, Dana Fox, Emily Fox, Anna Fricke, Hannah Friedman, Jena Friedman, Liz Friedman, Maggie Friedman, Kelly Galuska, Sera Gamble, Jessica Gao, Daisy Gardner, Valentina Garza, Leila Gerstein, Melissa James Gibson, Gina Gionfriddo, Karin Gist-Brown, Gracie Glassmeyer, Jessica Goldberg, Sarah Goldfinger, Emily Gordon, Philippa Goslett, Susannah Grant, Tash Gray, Misha Green, Kathy Greenberg, Sarah Gubbins, Lauren Gussis, Jenny Hagel, Barbara Hall, Katori Hall, Jenny Han, Lisa Hanawalt, Chelsea Handler, Liz Hannah, Alma Har’el, Amy B. Harris, Dee Harris-Lawrence, Becky Hartman Edwards, Leslye Headland, Sian Heder, Eileen Heisler, Liz Heldens, DeAnn Heline, Cody Heller, Emily Heller, Felicia D. Henderson, Christal Henry, Tara Herrmann, Sara Hess, Regina Hicks, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, Winnie Holzman, A.M. Homes, Karen Leigh Hopkins, Shannon M. Houston, Melinda Hsu, Taylor Soo Hugh, Darlene Hunt, Lauren Iungerich, Our Lady J, Abbi Jacobson, Casey Johnson, Erika L. Johnson, Joanna Johnson, Kathleen Jordan, Alexa Junge, Mindy Kaling, Laeta Kalogridis, Angela Kang, Kourtney Kang, Jenn Kao, Marta Kauffman, Zoe Kazan, Courtney A. Kemp, Nahnatchka Khan, Callie Khouri, Claire Kiechel, Marlene King, Michelle King, Corinne Kingsbury, Laura Kittrell, Julie Klausner, Jenny Klein, Jessi Klein, Erica Shelton Kodish, Jenji Kohan, Anna Konkle, Jenni Konner Liz Kruger, Sarah Kucserka, Bridget Kyle, Stephanie Laing, Noga Landau, Amanda Lasher, Sheila Lawrence, Janet Leahy, Christina Lee, Young Jean Lee, Lauren LeFranc, Kasi Lemmons, Jennifer Levin, Chris Levinson, Debbie Liebling, Adele Lim, Erica Lipez, Amy Lippman, Crystal Liu, Kari Lizer, Attica Locke, Melissa London Hilfers, Rachel Caris Love, Jenny Lumet, Ashley Lyle, Natasha Lyonne, Monica Macer, Marguerite MacIntyre, Carina Adly MacKenzie, Jhoni Marchinko, Meg Marinis, Julie Martin, Felischa Marye, Britt Matt, Vanessa McCarthy, Abby McEnany, Shauna McGarry, Colleen McGuinness, Alexandra McNally, Carol Mendelsohn, Carly Mensch, Wendy Mericle, Elizabeth Meriwether, Erica Messer, Molly Smith Metzler, Allison Miller, Rina Mimoun, Arika Lisanne Mittman, Becky Mode, Raamla Mohamed, Lizzie Molyneux, Wendy Molyneux, Jaclyn Moore, Lauren Morelli, LaToya Morgan, Dominique Morisseau, Maggie Mull, Michele Mulroney, Janine Nabers, Margaret Nagle, Tia Napolitano, Daniele Nathanson, Jessie Nelson, Kristin Newman, Lynn Nottage, Marti Noxon, Alissa Nutting, Jami O’Brien, Jessica O’Toole, Dr. Sonya Odamtten, Nkechi Okoro Carroll, Silvia Olivas, Tracy Oliver, Stacy Osei-Kuffour, Monica Owusu-Breen, Jan Oxenberg, Carolina Paiz, Michelle Paradise, Sallie Patrick, Ilana Peña, KC Perry, JJ Philbin, Julie Plec, Daria Polatin, Tracy Poust, Channing Powell, Kate Purdy, Jessica Queller, Issa Rae, Lisa Randolph, Ellen Rapoport, Robia Rashid, Joan Rater, Jacquelyn Reingold, Nicki Renna, Dara Resnik, Shonda Rhimes, Katie Rich, Erica Rivinoja, Katie Robbins, Kate Robin, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Marquita Robinson, Dailyn Rodriguez, Jessie Rosen, Melissa Rosenberg, Kim Rosenstock, Sharyn Rothstein, Julie Rottenberg, Amber Ruffin, Marja-Lewis Ryan, Tami Sagher, Erica Saleh, Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, Tanya Saracho, Stephanie Savage, Lorene Scafaria, Beth Schacter, Jac Schaeffer, Robin Schiff, Holly Schlesinger, Sarah Schneider, Ali Schouten-Seeks, Heidi Schreck, Amy Schumer, Jennifer Schuur, Beth Schwartz, Nell Scovell, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, Frankie Shaw, Ranada Shepard, Janine Sherman Barrois, Amy Sherman-Palladino, April Shih, Keto Shimizu, Rachel Shukert, Katie Silberman, Emily Silver, Allison Silverman, Randi Mayem Singer, Francesca Sloane, Alena Smith, Nora Smith, Nicole Snyder, ennie Snyder Urman, Holly Sorensen, Rachel Specte, rNichelle Tramble Spellman, Emily Spivey, Caissie St. Onge, Jen Statsky, KJ Steinberg, Dana Stevens, Christy Stratton, Veena Sud, Robin Swicord, Maurissa Tancharoen, Desta Tedros Reff, Sierra Teller Ornelas, Robin Thede, Betsy Thomas, Sarah Thompson, Merritt Tierce, Liz Tigelaar, Stacy Traub, Sarah Treem, Liz Tuccillo, Raelle Tucker, Karyn Usher, Noelle Valdivia, Krista Vernoff, Lilly Wachowski, Lena Waithe, Ayelet Waldman, Dahvi Waller, Lulu Wang, Michaela Watkins, Sarah Watson, Audrey Wauchope, Katie Wech, Annie Weisman, Hilary Weisman Graham, Lizzy Weiss, Gina Welch, Lindy West, Diana Whitten, Tracey Wigfield, Tracey Scott Wilson, Anna Winger, Nancy Won, Carly Wray, Wei-Ning Yu, Keisha Zollar, Lilla Zuckerman, Nora Zuckerman, Elisa Zuritsky, Lisa Zwerling