Female filmmakers are taking abortion protections into their own hands following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, said panelists during the “Navigating Hollywood in a Post-Roe v. Wade World” event presented by Loeb & Loeb at TheWrap’s Power Women Summit.
Sarah Treem, co-creator and showrunner of “The Affair,” is one of nearly 1500 members of the Showrunners Coalition that demanded Hollywood take action in support of those working on productions in “abortion-hostile states.”
The Showrunners Coalition received an “astonishing and unprecedented” response from fellow creatives, she told moderator Ivy Kagan Bierman, Chair of Entertainment Labor at Loeb & Loeb. Studio response was not as impressive.
“The ability for travel reimbursement [is] These are the issues people are referring to, in terms of what the companies have come up with. Sure, that’s great to be reimbursed if you’ve traveled to have an abortion, but really, it’s kind of the bare minimum of protecting the rights of women and people who can get pregnant if they’re working in abortion-hostile states, which was the primary concern that we had as employers and people who work in our industry, where you move to for jobs.”
“Everyone expected a response [that was] equal to the earthquake that it was, which is, ‘These are fundamental human rights.’ ‘This is health care.’ ‘How can we say that half the people in this country are second class citizens?’” said Hannah Linkenhoker, a political strategist and Chief Engagement Officer at Johnson Shapiro Slewett Kole LLP. She added that Lionsgate stood out among the “pretty lackluster” replies from the studios.
Pro-choice creators face one of the most difficult issues: many popular locations like Georgia and Louisiana are also red or purple on a political spectrum.
“As it relates to production in these states, you know, showrunners and studios are responsible for saying, ‘You’re all gonna go work in Texas where they have vigilante laws,’” Linkenhoker said. “You’re asking people to go work in states where they don’t have fundamental human rights or access to health care and people’s life events happen while they’re on set.”
Treem also agreed, pointing to the fact that all pregnant women are affected by these attacks on their maternal healthcare, and not just those who seek elective abortions.
“If I had been asked [to go to a state where abortion was criminalized] It would have caused me considerable pause while I was pregnant. This would have likely meant that I wouldn’t have gone. Which would have been a huge financial loss. It would have hurt my career,” she explained.
Paula Eiselt spoke about America’s maternal health crisis from her experience co-directing and co-producing the 2022 documentary “Aftershock.”
“The U.S. is the most dangerous place in the industrialized world to give birth, and so women are dying in childbirth at really high numbers,” she said. “It’s only gone up in the past 25 years, and Black and Indigenous women die at three times the rate of white women.”
Maternal mortality for Black women is expected to rise by 33% and 21% respectively after the Dobbs Decision.
And while studios and production bosses should do more to protect their employees, there’s a gray area when it comes to privacy, the panelists said.
“Why should someone be forced to tell their employer and get reimbursed to make this much personal health decision?” said Linkenhoker. “Ultimately, this is a massive failure of our laws, our legal system, our political system.”
But there’s hope to be found in pro-choice states expanding their tax credit programs for film and TV production, as California’s Governor Newsom aims to do. On the content side, filmmakers are committed to capturing Dobbs’ impact and the legal loopholes Americans are using to access reproductive care.
In January, Eiselt will premiere her documentary short “Under G-d,” about religious exemptions used to fight back against the abortion outlaw, at Sundance. Panelist Diane Whitten directed the 2014 documentary “Vessel” about Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, a physician from the Netherlands who traveled the world to provide safe abortions in hostile countries using legal loopholes. She stated that Gomperts added the U.S. to their itinerary after Trump’s election.
Projects like these do the important work of “normalizing and centering abortion stories in our industry,” said Whitten – something that has been and will continue to be a major conversation within the Showrunners’ Coalition.
Power Women Summit The largest annual gathering of influential women in media, entertainment and technology is (PWS). The event’s goal is to inspire and empower women from all walks of life, including their professional and personal careers. This year’s PWS provides two days of education, mentorship, workshops and networking around the globe – to promote this year’s theme, “A Time to Unite.” Learn more here: thewrap.com/pws.