By Dr. Susan Berry
Film industry giants Disney and Netflix are threatening to boycott the state of Georgia over its new “heartbeat” abortion law, but have continued and even stepped up filming in countries in which abortion is entirely illegal or highly restricted.
Variety reported Monday Netflix intends to increase production in Egypt – where abortion is illegal – with Paranormal, directed by Amr Salama and based on the horror books by late Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik.
“We are excited to continue our investment in Middle Eastern productions by adapting the highly acclaimed Paranormal novels into a thrilling new series,” said Kelly Luegenbiehl, Netflix vice president of international originals.
Variety reported Paranormal is the third Middle Eastern Netflix original series. It follows Jinn, a teen drama with supernatural themes that was filmed in Jordan, where abortion is illegal, except to save the life of the woman or if her health is threatened. Women as well as abortionists can be penalized for defying the law in Jordan.
Despite filming in these nations, however, on Tuesday Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, told Variety the company has “many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights … will be severely restricted” by the Georgia law that prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Sarandos said Netflix would be working with the ACLU to fight the new law.
“Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there, while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to,” he added. “Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”
While Disney Chairman Bob Iger commented that it would not be “practical” for his company to continue to shoot in Georgia, given its new abortion law, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Disney filmed part of its 2019 film Aladdin in Jordan as well.
The Free Beacon also noted that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise. In 2015, the company distributed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was filmed in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, where abortion is illegal except during the first 120 days of pregnancy and only when the mother’s life is threatened or the baby is diagnosed with a “lethal abnormality” that is “incompatible with life.”
Republican pollster Logan Dobson also observed on Twitter that Star Wars: The Last Jedi filmed scenes in Croatia, Ireland, and Bolivia – all nations in which abortion was highly restricted at the time of filming:
The Wall Street Journal editorial board noted the inconsistency in Disney’s policies, and specifically pointed out that the company also touts its theme park and films in China, where Turkic Muslims are being held in internment camps:
More than a few Americans may also notice the contradiction that Disney is more worried about filming in a U.S. state that has passed a law democratically than it is operating its theme park and hawking its films in China, which uses facial-recognition software to monitor its population and has a million Uighurs in re-education camps.
For decades, China also attempted to force control of its population with its “one-child policy,” which restricted the number of children a couple could have to only one.
Georgia’s Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act (HB 481) prohibits abortions in the state after a heartbeat is detected, usually at about six or seven weeks of pregnancy. Cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is in danger are exceptions to the law.
Georgia is the third largest production hub in the country, due to its generous tax incentives.
Actress and political activist Alyssa Milano called for a Hollywood boycott of Georgia if Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill into law. Milano then followed with a call for a sex strike – urging women to engage in abstinence from sex – to protest the end to “reproductive rights.”