After more than 1,000 leading filmmakers and showrunners like Jordan Peele, Shonda Rhimes, Natasha Lyonne, and Taika Waititi penned letters to major studios calling for public clarification of abortion safety protocols, production companies haven’t much responded.
On July 28, over 411 female creators collaborated on a letter to top executives at Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, NBCUniversal, Apple, Paramount, Lionsgate, AMC, and more production companies urging specific protocols be in place for pregnant employees throughout the U.S. The list of “grave concerns” over the handling of employees in anti-abortion states culminated in four demands (the below is an example from the letter tailored specifically to Netflix):
● 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.
The letter gave networks 10 days to comply in the wake of the overturn of Roe v. Wade. By August 1, 594 male filmmakers issued a letter in support of the demands. Aaron Sorkin, Donald Glover, David E. Kelley, Ryan Murphy, J.J. Abrams, Greg Berlanti, and more were among the signatories standing in alliance with their “female, trans, and non-binary showrunner colleagues in demanding a response from our employers regarding the imminent crisis.”
Now, the response in time for the 10-day deadline proves that AMC Networks, Amazon Studios, Apple TV+, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, The Walt Disney Company, and Warner Bros. Discovery are not willing to discontinue political donations to anti-abortion candidates, nor make public internal protocols to support employees.
The official response from the select studios kept it vague, writing, “Your concerns around the health, safety and well-being of our dedicated employees and the people who support our productions” and that they will continue to “evaluate ways best” to provide support for women’s healthcare.
An unnamed signee told Deadline that the studio response was an “insult” and proof that “our safety or rights” is not “important” to major Hollywood production companies.
Similarly, the Walt Disney Co. earlier this year stumbled in its initial response under CEO Bob Chapek to also continue funding politicians who are now pushing to ban gay marriage. Instead, that first response was to create “inspiring content” featuring LGBTQ+ characters, before deciding to suspend all political donations in Florida (including to politicians who oppose the Republican-backed “Don’t Say Gay” bill).
As studios contend with how to respond to employees’ specific requests surrounding abortion access, the Motion Picture Industry announced that, effective in late June, the union’s health plan will cover related travel expenses for participants working in a state where the service is illegal.
Below is the full response from studios:
Thank you for your letter of July 28, 2022. We share your concerns around the health, safety and well-being of our dedicated employees and the people who support our productions. We believe they should have access to safe and effective health care, and their privacy should be protected.
Each of our individually designed corporate health plans provides comprehensive health care coverage for our respective employees. We have been independently updating our respective employees – who live and work throughout the country – as plans and policies change and expand to provide reproductive care and other support now needed in states that have restricted or outlawed abortion access.
Most workers on scripted film and TV productions are covered by industry health plans that are jointly administered by union and management trustees under the collective bargaining framework. In partnership with various industry health plan staff and the union trustees on those plans, our management trustees worked swiftly to review existing health benefits, and several of these industry health plans have already adopted amendments providing for reimbursement for travel expenses associated with securing abortion services for participants and their dependents who reside or work in states where such services cannot be lawfully obtained. We understand the other industry health plans will be considering similar changes this month. The participants in the various industry plans have been receiving communications directly from the plans about these amendments.
We are pleased that our industry partners have quickly addressed this important issue and are committed to continuing to evaluate ways that we can best provide for our employees and workers who support our productions.
We want to assure you that we are individually focused on supporting the health, safety, well-being and privacy of our respective employees and those who support our productions as we continue to monitor this evolving situation. We look forward to working with you to continue to make great content for our audiences around the world.
AMC Networks, Amazon Studios, Apple TV+, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Discovery
Lionsgate, among the recipients of the two filmmaker letters, issued a separate response from CEO Jon Feltheimer in a regular weekly letter to staffers (via Variety). Feltheimer wrote that Lionsgate will “safeguard employees from discrimination, harassment, bullying and invasion of privacy” when it comes to abortion procedures.
While there may be “differing views on this sensitive issue within our diverse Lionsgate family,” Feltheimer penned that “the reproductive rights of every employee must be protected, individual choice will be safeguarded, and access to necessary health services will be prioritized.”
Read the full Lionsgate statement below:
Protecting the safety and well-being of our employees is our highest priority. We have strong policies and processes in place to safeguard employees from discrimination, harassment, bullying and invasion of privacy. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, it has become necessary to develop strong policies and add to our comprehensive benefits to protect our employees’ reproductive rights as well.
There may be differing views on this sensitive issue within our diverse Lionsgate family. Consistent with our values, we are committed to a respectful, tolerant and mutually supportive internal dialogue. But our Company’s position on this matter is clear and unequivocal: the reproductive rights of every employee must be protected, individual choice will be safeguarded, and access to necessary health services will be prioritized. We are currently engaged in the process of developing a thoughtful and comprehensive policy to carry out this mandate – one that factors in health insurance issues, the legal and regulatory frameworks of the states in which we operate, and a host of other issues.
Please have a safe and relaxing weekend.