Billionaires and Corporations Won't Save Abortion

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Georgia’s “fetal heartbeat” law, which was passed and signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this month has been just one of many around the country in what’s been an all-out conservative offensive against abortion rights. What separates Georgia from other states like Alabama, Ohio, and Missouri, however, is its ties to Hollywood, due to a state film tax credit that’s extremely advantageous to studios.

So far, major Hollywood-related businesses have mostly stayed silent about the new law, though Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, said on Tuesday that the company “will work with the ACLU and others” to fight the law in court and would “rethink our entire investment in Georgia” if it went into effect.

On Wednesday, Disney’s $66 million CEO Bob Iger joined Netflix in speaking out against the new law, in a similarly noncommittal fashion. “I rather doubt we will [continue to film in Georgia],” Iger told Reuters. “I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now we are watching it very carefully.”


To a certain extent, it’s helpful to have high-profile figures like Netflix and the CEO of Disney speak out on these abortion laws. But as a long-term strategy, the threat of a few big Hollywood studios leaving Georgia will not be enough to deter the climax of a 50-year project to destroy abortion rights.

Three years ago, a similar dynamic played out in North Carolina over the anti-trans, anti-labor HB 2. Following the passage of the law, which was implemented in order to preempt a local ordinance in Charlotte mandating that businesses allow trans people access to the right bathroom, a whole slew of corporations doing business in the state came out against it, including Apple, Dow Chemical, IBM, and Google.


As Alex Kotch at Facing South found soon after the law’s passage, however, many of those same companies speaking out had helped the law’s passage by contributing millions to the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), the GOP’s campaign arm for state legislative races which helped elect a Republican majority to the state legislature, and the Republican Governors’ Association, which helped elect former Gov. Pat McCrory in 2012. As Kotch found, at least 36 companies that had come out against HB 2 had given a combined $10.8 million to those groups since 2010.

What happened? McCrory and the Republicans tried to turn it into a campaign issue and failed miserably; McCrory was one of the only Republicans to lose statewide in 2016. A few months later, under the threat of a boycott by the NCAA, his successor, Democrat Roy Cooper, and the legislature worked out a deal to repeal HB 2 and replaced it with another bill was nearly as much of a raw deal for trans North Carolinians as HB 2 was. Still, it was enough for the corporations, and the boycotts went away.


In many ways, the situation in Georgia is even worse than North Carolina’s, as the bill passed earlier this month and it’s taken this long for just two companies to come out with noncommittal statements about their plans once this law goes into effect. There’s simply not the same level of enthusiasm from companies, motivated by profit, to match a right-wing anti-abortion movement led by a governor who’s likely eager to use a big strong stand against Hollywood interests as a campaign line.

The truth is that capitalism and capitalists are simply not a reliable ally in fights for social justice. The only way to beat back these horrible abortion laws is through organizing, coalition-building, and action—with or without Disney and Netflix.