Lily Tomlin, Gloria Allred, Marta Kauffman and top creatives called on entertainment companies to implement stronger health and safety protections for employees working in states that have banned or criminalized abortion on a reproductive health picket for Amazon Studios on Friday.
“Our message to the studios is this: it is not acceptable to wait for someone to die to take this seriously. It is unacceptable to force people who are pregnant or may become pregnant to have to choose between their jobs and their lives,” said writer-producer Cindy Chupack (Fleishman is in trouble, Sex and the city) in a speech at the Culver Studios White Pillar event. “And Amazon, maybe instead of figuring out how drones can safely fly our packages to our doorstep, you could figure out how a medevac can safely fly our crew members to a hospital.”
Kirsten Schaffer, CEO of Women in Film, added in her own comments to the crowd: “The work we do would be impossible without access to abortion and reproductive health care in general. Many if not most of us wouldn’t be able to do the work we do without knowing we have that access.”
The event was organized as a special picket within the ongoing writers’ strike and fell a day after the release of a “after-Roe reportwhich details major corporations’ reproductive health care policies and reproductive health and safety hotline functions a year later Roe against Wade was overthrown. The “report card,” released Thursday, found that few studio-provided hotlines can help their employees access emergency medical care, for example. None of the studios covered by the report provided “emergency measures necessary to access care” if an employee works in a state that prohibits or criminalizes abortion and needs emergency reproductive care.
The group behind the picket, dubbed “Showrunners for Abortion Rights,” was formed in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to Roe against Wade in June 2022. Composed of creatives including Shonda Rhimes, Ava DuVernay, Natasha Lyonne and Issa Rae, the group reportedly sought to push hundreds of studios and streamers to implement stricter protocols for their employees in states such as Tennessee, Alabama and Texas, who have banned abortions. The group has since grown into a coalition of about 1,400 creatives, including showrunners, TV makers and directors, and a steering committee of about 40 organized Friday events.
According to Friends And Grace and Frankie co-creator Marta Kauffman, a member of the Showrunner Coalition, many of the reproductive health resources cited in the group’s report were a “direct result of Showrunners for Abortion Rights and specifically the delegates working with all studios went to talk.” (Thirty-five showrunners with influence over individual studios volunteered to serve as “deputies,” lobbying those respective companies to expand their resources over the past year.)
Working with powerful industry creatives has been a key part of the group’s strategy, Chupack explains in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter“That was part of our push on the studios, to say your work will be reported to this very influential group of people that you want to work with.”
Kauffman added THR that she hoped the picket would let the industry know that “we’re not going to face it”. She explained, “We’re not going to stand up for the women and the people with wombs, as Gloria (Allred) said, who are at risk just because they want to work. This is a discrimination issue.”
Several of the day’s speakers encouraged the writers in attendance to acknowledge abortion — and barriers to reproductive health care in general — in their scripts. Lily Tomlin told those in attendance, “You, the storytellers, no longer have to imagine a world like The Handmaid’s Talebecause we’re pretty close to that now. What you do need to do is tell the stories of what women across the country are facing.” She added, referring to studios and streamers currently deadlocked with the Writers Guild of America over a new contract: “Hope those guys get off their asses and let you do that sooner rather than later tell those stories . ”
Actor Brandee Evans, who plays a character in Starz’s P valley who helps her daughter access an abortion, said she personally had no serious reproductive health problems in the past and had suffered a stillbirth. “We are here today to beg you to please make this achievable and visible to all,” she told the writers. “That means you have to write it. That means the showrunners have to put it on their shows. Networks need to be open to showing that.”
Towards the end of the day, high-profile lawyer Allred took the stage. She called for more action by entertainment industry unions, not just employers. Acknowledging that this could be a “controversial” position, Allred said: “I think that SAG-AFTRA, the Directors Guild, the Producers Guild, the Writers Guild, the technical and craft guilds should not participate in making films in states that ban movies. abortions. I think we should demand that our unions protect our fragile wombs.” In the wake of Roe against Wade After being overturned in 2022, several unions — including the DGA and WGA — have expanded their coverage of abortion services, though they have not taken a position against production in specific states.
In addition to speeches, the picket featured a number of musical acts – Ella Jay Basco and The Sibs and Susanna Hoffs, among others – and food (sandwiches, cupcakes, coffee and smoothies) donated by the Ronin Project Podcast, Jennie Snyder Urman, Aline Brosh McKenna and Rachel Bloom.
As the event drew to a close, members of Showrunners for Abortion Rights said their advocacy will continue. The studio’s report “showed all the gains we’ve made I think working with the studios, but also what’s left to do, and that’s really the emergency reproductive part,” Chupack said. Kauffman added, “We’re not done yet.”