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Amid Hollywood antiabortion concerns, Gov. Newsom touts California as ‘freedom state’

A man in a dark suit smiles and points
Gavin Newsom at Greater Zion Church in Compton on 2018.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Amid an outcry in Hollywood over antiabortion laws, Gov. Gavin Newsom is urging studios to do business in California.

“Today more than ever, you have a responsibility to take stock of your values — and those of your employees — when doing business in those states,” Newsom says in a political advertisement that ran in Variety. “So to those in power to make decisions about where to film, where to hire, where to open new offices, we in California say: Walk the walk.”

The comments mark the latest effort by Newsom to tap into growing concerns raised by Hollywood talent and workers over states that have adopted stricter abortion laws in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe vs. Wade, which had held abortions as a constitutional right.

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Newsom, who is up for reelection, has been calling out red state leaders for their stances on gun control, abortion and education.

A group of over 400 TV writers has written to studios including Netflix asking for greater support for pregnant workers after the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade.

In Georgia, the law bans abortions when the fetus has a detectable heartbeat, which could be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Georgia has been home to many Hollywood productions including “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Family Feud” and “Stranger Things 4.”

Last week, hundreds of show runners and TV writers, including Shonda Rhimes and Ava DuVernay, expressed their concerns in a letter to Disney, Netflix and other studios, asking them for details on how they would support pregnant workers who are working in states with limited abortion rights.

“Currently, any pregnant person working on one of your productions in states that have criminalized abortion does so at great risk,” according to a letter that the group sent to Netflix.

The logistics of accessing abortion are about to get more complicated, with at least 26 states set to ban the procedure after the fall of Roe vs. Wade.

Studios including Netflix and Disney said they would reimburse travel to other states for full-time employees who work where abortion care is limited.

In his statement, Newsom touted the benefits of working in California — calling it the “freedom state” — instead of states such as Oklahoma and Georgia that have restricted abortion rights. He also expressed support for legislation that would extend the state’s film and television tax credit program through 2030 and invest $1.65 billion in the program, which is funded through 2025.

“Extending this program will help ensure California’s world-renowned entertainment industry continues to drive economic growth with good jobs and a diverse, inclusive workforce,” Newsom said in the statement.

The eye popping estimate was based on a review of 157 out of 312 projects that applied for but did not receive a California tax credit.

California competes with states including Georgia that offer lucrative financial incentives for Hollywood productions. A recent report from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. estimated that California lost nearly $8 billion in economic activity and 28,000 jobs due to productions moving out of state.

California Film Commission Executive Director Colleen Bell said she believes “working in and supporting a state that violates basic freedoms is antithetical to the industry’s core values.”

“More than ever, California offers the best value and the best values,” Bell said in a statement.

Colleen Bell is the new executive director of the California Film Commission and she’s making the rounds, visiting major TV and film production sites. One of her goals is to increase the annual cap of the state’s tax credit program.

Times staff writer Anousha Sakoui contributed to this report.


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