Just a few hours shy of the deadline set in late July by hundreds of top female writers and showrunners on abortion safety protocols, most of Hollywood’s biggest studios and streamers today opted to side step specifics.
In a response letter full of boiler plate remarks on sharing “your concerns around the health, safety and well-being of our dedicated employees and the people who support our productions” and “access to safe and effective health care,” Disney, Netflix, AppleTV+, NBCUniversal, Amazon, Warner Bros Discovery, and AMC Networks essentially ignored the primary points of concern and action that the likes of Shonda Rhimes, Pamela Adlon, Issa Rae, Mindy Kaling, Natasha Lyonne, Angela Kang, Courtney A. Kemp, Elizabeth Meriwether, Robin Thede, Marta Kauffman, Tanya Saracho, Amy Schumer and others put before them individually on July 28.
Following the political and cultural earthquake of Roe v Wade being overturned by the conservative majority Supreme Court on June 24, the industry talent asked studios and streamers to “review your current abortion safety plan” within 10 business days. That deadline would have been just before midnight tonight LA time. Although Lionsgate was among the companies sent a letter by the showrunners and writers on July 28, the studio was not among those responding Wednesday.
In the tense electoral atmosphere of the upcoming midterms, today’s letter conveyed nothing about ceasing donations to anti-abortion candidates and PACs – which should be a pretty easy call for Blue Hollywood. Despite a reliance on existing union healthcare plans and “continuing to evaluate ways that we can best provide for our employees and workers who support our productions,” the maladroit letter also offered nothing spotlighting matters of privacy, liability indemnification from potential criminal or civil charges, nor “pregnancy complications” and “protocols outlining the scope of medical care” – as had been requested.
What it did put forth was a tin eared “we look forward to working with you to continue to make great content for our audiences around the world” as a closing line in Wednesday’s letter.
“It’s an insult, plain to see,” one signee told Deadline Wednesday after the response correspondence started showing up in people’s inboxes. “It’s indicative of what’s truly important to them, which isn’t us, our safety or rights,” the hyphenated creative added. “I shouldn’t be surprised, I am, but I know I shouldn’t be,” another top tier signatory to the July 28 letter from writers and showrunners bluntly stated of the response she read today.
A number of signatories to the original letter told Deadline tonight that they are discussing more actions that can be taken to stockpile studio and streamer support. Additionally, almost 600 male showrunners and writers who sent an abortion rights letter of their own to “our employers” earlier this month “regarding the imminent crisis.” The “form letter reply,” as one of those male scribes termed it, that their female colleagues received today has seemingly galvanized many of them on further strategies they can attempt. “Hollywood needs to send a message of unwavering support to American women,” one male content creator said. “Abortion banning states need to know that support isn’t just moral, but financial if needed. And if the industry needs to, it needs to walk away from tax credits and production in those states.”
Citing the national hopes springing from the recent defeat in Kansas of a state constitutional amendment to ban abortion altogether, one producer stated that “Hollywood has decided to stay on the sidelines in Georgia, and with Republicans.” The filmmaker said, “this isn’t over, but now we know who our allies are.”
Read the full response letter from the studios and steamers here:
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