Column: Dear Hollywood: Georgia’s new abortion law means you have to stop shooting there. Now

Culture columnist/critic

Dear Hollywood: Get the hell out of Georgia. Now.

I understand the tax breaks are terrific, the geography diverse, the cost of living cheap and heaven knows it’s hard to beat an ice-cold glass of sweet tea when you need a pick-me-up. But by criminalizing abortion after six weeks, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp just turned the millions you save, and the billions you infuse into the state economy, into blood money.

Blood from all the women and girls who will now have to resort to knitting needles and kitchen table “doctors” to terminate their pregnancies.

Blood from all the underserved women and girls, already living in a state with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, who will find it even harder to secure vital medical care as ob/gyns move to other states.


Blood from any woman who might endure a miscarriage without medical help for fear someone decides something looks a little fishy.

Blood from the women, and men, imprisoned for getting or aiding a legal abortion out of state or taking misoprostol — a drug that induces abortion, and whose availability online has helped decrease the death rate from self-induced abortion.

Blood from the women forced to have children they did not want, and from the children they were forced to have.

RELATED: Muted Hollywood response to Georgia’s ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban shows how much studios have to lose »

The bill Kemp signed, HB 481, is designed to provoke a challenge that will send abortion back to the Supreme Court. Those who do not believe in female reproductive autonomy hope that the recent addition of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh will allow the court to overturn Roe vs. Wade and make reproductive freedom a geographic crap shoot for American women.

The ACLU of Georgia has said that it will contest the law, which is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2020, and many believe it will be delayed if not struck down.


But that’s not the point. The point is Georgia’s governor signed into law one of the most restrictive, punitive abortion bans in the country.

The purported goal of anti-abortion activists is to decrease the abortion rate (which is, by the way, the lowest it has been in a decade). But as history has proven, criminalizing abortion does not do this. According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortion rates are about the same in countries where it is legal as where it is not.

Surely we can all agree that the goal should be decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies, something that can only be achieved through increased access to education and birth control.

Which anti-abortion groups tend to be remarkably uninterested in addressing.

The only thing criminalizing abortion does is increase the number of women who either die or go to jail.

It is not a good look for the “Hollywood of the South,” and many in the entertainment industry have already threatened to boycott. The WGA took issue with the “draconian anti-choice” law, Alyssa Milano sent Kemp a letter signed by more than 50 well-known actors, and David Simon engaged on Twitter.

The MPAA also issued a more toothless statement, noting that the law may be delayed by the courts and that it is “monitoring the situation.” And studios, including Disney, which threatened to take its business out of Georgia if the state passed an anti-LGBTQ law in 2016, haven’t said much this week.


In other words, reap those tax breaks while ye may.

Whether or not the law is delayed or struck down, Georgia is sending a message to its fellow Americans and those fellow Americans should respond.

And not by continuing to pour billions into the Georgia economy and allowing the Georgia tourist bureau to use shows like “Stranger Things,” “The Walking Dead,” and “Ozark” and movies like “Ant-Man” and “Avengers: Infinity War” to lure visitors.

It’s one thing if your show or movie is actually set in Atlanta. It’s another if you are using Georgia to pose for Missouri or Indiana or wherever else you once asked Toronto to fake.

Yes, Georgia has coastlines and forests and hills and hollers, but you know what? So do a lot of states. My home state of Maryland is called America in Miniature for a reason, and they have sweet tea there as well.

Yes, many people in the local creative community would lose their jobs, but many of those workers are also women, and turning a blind eye on a law designed to frighten, punish and harm millions of women to preserve even 90,000 temporary jobs (even “The Walking Dead” won’t last forever) makes no sense.

Those production jobs won’t disappear: they will just go to other worthy workers in other states. But if Hollywood can use its financial muscle to try to protect millions of women by making the new law deeply unappealing to Georgia’s lawmakers, it must.


And let’s be honest, no one decided to shoot in Georgia because of a desire to aid local workers. Georgia became a center of production only a decade ago when the state significantly upped its tax breaks. And if those tax breaks dried up, Hollywood would be out of there in a hot second, local workers be damned.

So it’s really all about the money, and that money means something very different now. The majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal and any woman who has ever been pregnant will tell you that the six-week rule effectively bans all abortions.

Hollywood, my friend, boycotts work in all sorts of ways. In an oversaturated screen culture, even really good shows and films struggle to find large sustaining audiences. In an age of digital disruption, networks, studios and streaming services are constantly fighting for domination.

So maybe it’s not the best idea to continue supporting a state that just produced an unconstitutional, lethal piece of legislation aimed directly at women.

Who, in case you haven’t noticed, are already on their collective last nerve.

Instead of “monitoring the situation” to see whether the law holds or not, Hollywood needs to leave now and return only when it is over-turned.

As Kemp said when he signed the bill: “We cannot change our values of who we are for money.”


Hollywood executives should ask themselves how much those tax breaks will be worth if more than half the country decides to vote with their remote and boycott those shows and films made by people who decided to take a tax break rather than take a stand.