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Netflix CEO’s Education Agenda Meets Abortion Politics in Missouri

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has long advocated for charter schools, giving money to Republicans and Democrats across the country in support of the education reform movement.

But the politics of abortion have suddenly made that more complicated. Amid a growing wave of abortion restrictions in Ohio, Georgia, and other states, Netflix took an unusual stand this week, threatening to withdraw from filming in Georgia if an abortion ban is upheld.

On Wednesday, the newsletter Popular Information reported that Hastings had given $143,000 to 73 Missouri legislators, and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, who recently enacted a bill to ban abortion after eight weeks. The contributions all came between July 2018 and February 2019 — before the abortion bill came up for debate.

Nevertheless, the situation raises a question as to how Hastings will reconcile his personal political activity with Netflix’s stance against abortion restrictions. In a statement on Thursday, Hastings’ representative sought to make a distinction between the two.

“Reed’s private support of educational causes is well known and these personal donations stem directly from that,” the representative said. “All of these personal donations from Reed, on both sides of the aisle, were made in support of a specific piece of legislation aimed at improving the availability and quality of charter schools in Missouri.”

Hastings was backing HB 581, a bill that would have dramatically increased the availability of charter schools in Missouri. Under current law, charters are limited to St. Louis and Kansas City. The bill, authored by Rep. Rebecca Roeber, would have expanded charters to any city with a population of at least 30,000.

Hastings gave $5,200 to Roeber, a Republican who voted for the abortion ban. The charter school bill died without a floor vote in the legislature.

Hastings did not indicate whether he would continue to support lawmakers who backed the abortion bill if those lawmakers are sponsoring education reform bills in the future.

Since Netflix came out against the Georgia bill, several other Hollywood studios have followed suit, including Disney, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal.

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