On May 28, Netflix threw down a gauntlet. If the so-called heartbeat abortion bill recently signed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp—one of several such bills states passed this year that would effectively ban abortion—becomes the law of the land as planned in January, the company said it would withdraw all of its business from the state, including millions of dollars of film and television production.
Although stars such as Kristen Wiig and Alyssa Milano had promised personal boycotts of Georgia production facilities before last Tuesday, Netflix’s threat was the first from a Hollywood studio, many of which have moved major production efforts to Georgia because of the state’s lucrative entertainment tax incentives. These incentives have brought more than 92,000 jobs and nearly $4.6 billion in wages to the state since 2008, along with productions such as Black Panther and The Walking Dead, according to data from the Motion Picture Association of America. Those jobs include thousands of janitors, caterers, carpenters, and others involved in the less glamorous parts of entertainment—not the kind of people who get relocated when a studio moves.
Soon, other production companies followed suit: NBCUniversal, WarnerMedia, AMC, CBS, Showtime, Sony Pictures, and Disney, among others, all voiced concerns about the bill, promising to reevaluate their investment in the state if the law isn’t defeated in court. By stepping into the fray, these entertainment companies are doing what a growing number of corporations now find central to their public-relations mission: taking public stands on social issues important to their customers. In this case, that means Hollywood power players are considering moves that would result in thousands of workers in Georgia’s film industry losing their livelihood—in many cases, the same workers whose reproductive rights would be affected by the state’s new abortion law. Is it really possible for companies to stand with Georgia’s women by threatening to leave thousands of them jobless?