Stacey Abrams says the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade means that her race to unseat Brian Kemp as governor of Georgia will determine the access that women in her state have to abortion.
“This is not simply about one election or one person,” Abrams tells Variety. “I am standing for governor. But this is about the ability of women to control their body and their destiny.”
As governor, Kemp signed a six-week abortion ban into law, although that has been enjoined in court. The Republican is also facing pressure from anti-abortion leaders to include additional restrictions. Hollywood is intently interested in what happens in Georgia because the state’s generous production incentives means that many films and shows now shoot there. That’s led some abortion rights advocates to float the idea of pulling business out of Georgia in retaliation — a step that Abrams does not endorse.
You have had a lot of Hollywood support throughout your political campaigns. How can the entertainment business get involved?
My very strong belief is that the film industry is vital in the state, and I intend to be a governor who will keep business and keep the entertainment industry here in Georgia. But we have to do so with a fervent belief in reproductive rights because of who works in this industry. So, my response to what businesses should do, is that every single business, every single woman needs to do what they feel is best for them.
Companies like Netflix and Disney have announced that they will pay for their employees to travel to get an abortion. What do you make of that?
I believe that the business community should be unequivocal in its support for reproductive rights and that the entertainment community absolutely has the responsibility to be vocal.
I helped save the Georgia film industry* the first time because I knew that it’s one of the largest economic drivers in our state. I know that these restrictive and unjust measures have a very real effect on the most vulnerable people in our state. I don’t want us to risk losing jobs and revenue growth, but that means that the very same industry can’t then support the leaders who are making this happen.
Investing in anti-choice legislators, investing in anti-choice leaders is counterproductive and it is dangerous to the women who work for their company. It is dangerous to the women of Georgia. It is dangerous to the women of America. You cannot say with one breath that you believe in reproductive choice and in your next breath support those who would strip those rights away. This is not a cultural issue. This is a medical issue. This is a healthcare issue. This is a financial crisis for those women who are trapped in states where they cannot leave.
It is absolutely imperative that the entertainment community be unequivocal in its support of women and their reproductive choice. If they can signal that by not supporting those who have been equally unequivocal about their belief that they have the right to take it away.
What does this ban mean for your state and the Black women and the women of color in Georgia?
Brian Kemp is dangerous to the women of Georgia — this is not hyperbole. Georgia has the second-highest rate of maternal mortality in the nation. Black women at large, especially in Georgia, are more likely to die and are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women nationally.
What this law says is that if you miss the narrow window of opportunity to learn about your health, there is no recourse. Brian Kemp has said that he intends to make it even harder because he wants to outlaw access to abortions in cases of rape and incest. For women who are trapped in the state and trapped under this man, he is a danger to their health, he’s a danger to their welfare. The law that he signed in 2019, that will be the law of the land in a matter of weeks, is a danger to the women of Georgia.
Some people believe that the Supreme Court ruling, which flies in the face of popular opinion that overwhelmingly supports abortion rights, signals the death of democracy. Are things that bad?
Democracy is at risk. It is the erosion of our rights. It is the reduction to second-class citizenship of half of the population.
I don’t simply want to raise the issue. I want to raise the solution. That’s the work that I’ve done as a private citizen and as a legislator. I want to make certain you’re protecting democracy because democracy protects us. We have to speak about the immediate issues that are at stake, but we also have to protect the framework that allows us to anticipate the next assault on our rights and push back again.
The midterms are fast approaching. What would you tell disillusioned people who believe their vote doesn’t matter?
Voting is not magic. It is medicine. The ill that Donald Trump represented, did not disappear with his loss. As long as you have people who share his values, who are willing to dismiss the rights of others, then we have more work to do.
Donald Trump was not a singularity, he was an example. We have to root out and push back against anything and anyone who would deny our citizenship and our humanity. There were four years of Trump, but there have been more than 50 years of the assault on our rights as voters and on the rights of women’s bodies. Those were not going to disappear with one person losing his job. We have to not only defeat those who take our rights away, but we have to elect those who will defend those rights.
*Abrams publicly urged studios not to pull work from the state after the abortion restrictions passed in 2019. Many have privately cited her comments as justification for remaining in Georgia.