On Aug. 15, a coalition of showrunners, TV creators and directors sent a list of demands to studios, outlining the urgent need for abortion safety protocols for productions in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade. That letter was the organization’s second attempt. The studios had collectively answered the first letter, which had been sent on July 28, with a response one member of the group, who spoke anonymously to Variety, called “patronizing” in an interview.
The group’s second letter more clearly detailed the medical dangers for pregnant women in states where abortion is illegal because of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision — not only for those who want an abortion, but for women whose medical care might be otherwise compromised. Ignoring the collective response, which had been issued by the Motion Picture Association, the Aug. 15 appeal was sent directly to studio presidents, and members of the boards of directors at AMC Networks, Amazon Studios, Apple TV+, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Discovery. They gave a deadline of Labor Day for responses from the studios.
Days after that deadline passed, the still-unnamed group sent a statement to Variety that was vague, but hopeful — stating that all of the studios “are engaging directly and individually with us to address the immediate need for safety, privacy and legal protections for their employees.” (The full statement is included below.)
The showrunners’ group is composed of the top creators in television, including Shonda Rhimes, Greg Berlanti, Mindy Kaling, Damon Lindelof, Elizabeth Meriwether, Ava DuVernay, and more than 1,400 other creators, executive producers and directors. The coalition, as Variety learned in an interview with three of the members when the second letter was sent, came together loosely but purposefully after the Dobbs decision. The July 28 letter had 411 signatories, and a few days later, 594 male showrunners backed up those demands.
In the new statement on Sept. 9, one proposition the coalition notes is the possibility of a private “24-hour Reproductive Health Safety Hotline” that could “help workers navigate the medical and legal challenges all people living and working in these states now face.”
The coalition also issued an update on its effort to raise money for the National Network of Abortion Funds, a nonprofit that helps individuals overcome the barriers to obtaining abortions: “We have raised almost 3 million dollars, which is already helping people access abortion in states where this vital care is illegal or severely restricted.”
The full statement from the showrunners:
Our Coalition began this effort to ensure that the studios stepped up to protect women and people who can get pregnant who work on productions in states where abortion is now illegal and being criminalized.
While there is still much work to be done, we can share that all nine studios we contacted (Amazon, AMC, Apple TV+, CBS/Paramount, Disney, Lionsgate, NBCU, Netflix and Warner Brothers Discovery) are engaging directly and individually with us to address the immediate need for safety, privacy and legal protections for their employees.
A few companies are already exploring ways to implement a 24-hour Reproductive Health Safety Hotline for productions in abortion-hostile states. This critical resource will help ensure privacy and access to emergency and non-emergency healthcare and information, and will help workers navigate the medical and legal challenges all people living and working in these states now face.
We will continue to monitor the progress of these studios and will hold them accountable to identify and implement solutions for the issues which have yet to be addressed. We want to thank the nearly 1,500 Showrunners, Creators and Directors who stand in solidarity with us to meet the urgency of this moment, and all those who donated to the Hollywood Fund for Abortion Relief. We have raised almost 3 million dollars, which is already helping people access abortion in states where this vital care is illegal or severely restricted.