Prompted by a letter sent by more than 400 female showrunners (and co-signed by an additional group of nearly 400 directors and 500+ male showrunners), several major studios have responded to questions about their abortion policies. Actually, they sort of responded to one question, and didn’t really engage with the rest of the content of the letter.
AMC Networks, Amazon Studios, Apple TV+, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery all co-signed the response (per The Hollywood Reporter, Lionsgate did not add its name to the list despite reportedly being one of the recipients of the original letter). The studios write that “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.”
The letter states that their corporate health plans provide “comprehensive” coverage and will continue to update employees “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.”
However, the studios also deflect responsibility to Hollywood’s unions, noting that industry health plans are also being updated and participants will receive information directly from their providers. “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,” the companies write.
The studios are supposedly “committed to continuing to evaluate ways that we can best provide for our employees and workers who support our productions,” but they ignored the other calls to action from the original letter. For one, the female showrunners had requested “policy regarding criminal and civil legal protection” for employees who engaged with the companies’ abortion protocols, a bullet point which is notably absent. The original letter also demanded a “pledge to discontinue all political donations to anti-abortion candidates and political action committees immediately,” and of course, the studios ignored that too.
The next step, as outlined by the July 28 letter, is for the signatories and their legal representatives to review the studios’ response. It’s unclear what action will be taken to address the fact that the studios disregarded some significant requests, but with close to 1,500 prominent creatives on board, the letter writers certainly have the power to hold these companies’ feet to the fire. Let’s see if they actually wield it.