At the end of July, more than 400 female TV creators, showrunners, and head writers penned an open letter to TV studios and executives requesting abortion protections for staff in anti-abortion states. The letter requested that the companies review and share their plan for care and protection for employees, including: travel subsidies and protecting medical privacy, the scope of medical care, criminal and civil legal protection, and a cessation of political donations to anti-abortion candidates and PACs. Now, most of the studios have responded in a joint letter published on Wednesday.
As requested, the studios have issued a written response to the letter signed by 411 female showrunners (and co-signed by nearly 1,000 additional directors and male showrunners) asking them to step in and help ensure access to legal abortions in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade.
“We share your concerns around the health, safety and well-being of our dedicated employees and the people who support our productions,” AMC Networks, Amazon Studios, Apple TV+, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, The Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. Discovery wrote in a joint letter issued at close of business Wednesday. Lionsgate, which was reportedly one of the recipients of the showrunners’ letter, was not named in the studio response.
“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,” the letter continued. “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.”
On July 28, the female showrunners sent a letter to the studios and streamers asking for written plans for protecting employees’ ability to secure legal abortions, particularly those living and working in states that moved to ban such procedures after the high court reversed abortion as a constitutional right. “Within ten business days of today we require review of your current abortion safety plan detailing [the company’s] policies and processes to ensure our safety, protect our health and defend our human rights,” they wrote.
Hours after the June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson ruling was handed down, Hollywood companies including Disney, Netflix, Comcast, Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery noted to their employees that they already covered or would now cover travel expenses for abortion. “We are immediately expanding our healthcare benefits options to include expenses for employees and their covered family members who need to travel to access a range of medical procedures, including care for abortions, family planning and reproductive health,” WBD chief people and culture officer Adria Alpert Romm wrote in June.
The next step, according to the showrunners’ letter, is for the signatories to review the studio response alongside their legal representatives.
The studio response was (a) late and (b) pretty vague, I think. It says they are swiftly reviewing and updating industry health plans and will continue to do so, refers to unions and collective bargaining, and specifically references travel reimbursements for participants and their dependents who live and work in anti-abortion states. As noted in the THR article, the companies have already pretty much said the stuff about the travel reimbursements. That’s probably because travel reimbursements are low-hanging fruit: easy enough to talk about and get on board with in theory, but in practice might be more difficult to implement. Travel reimbursements are pretty much the bare minimum and the showrunner letter asked for far more details than just that assurance. It’s a lot of talk about support and protection, but it’s unclear how far that will extend. Notably absent? Lionsgate, apparently. AMC Networks, Amazon Studios, Apple TV+, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, The Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. Discovery all signed the joint response. Also, very notably absent: any mention of cessation of political donations to anti-abortion PACS and candidates. Hm.