Studios Ignore Specific Demands for Abortion Safety Protocols in Collective Response to Showrunners’ Letters

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After more than a thousand showrunners behind some of the most popular shows in the world mobilized to demand specific abortion safety protocols be put in place at the studio level, those studios answered with a collective response on Wednesday evening. The letter seeks to assure the showrunners that they share the same concerns, but does not address the specific demands the showrunners sought. It also ignores the call to cease donations to anti-choice politicians.

The response did, however, come in under the showrunners’ deadline for an answer, which was 11:59 pm PT on Aug. 10. There was one notable absence about the studios, however: Lionsgate isn’t among the signatories. Spokespeople for the company didn’t immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.

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On July 28, 411 television creators and showrunners sent individual letters to the studios outlining four demands for specific safety protocols to be put in place for pregnant employees in states where abortion has been outlawed, or soon will be. The showrunners want systems in place to ensure safe, funded and private travel for an employee seeking an abortion; they want protocols for care for “ectopic pregnancies and other pregnancy complications” during production; and they want guaranteed safeguards “regarding criminal and civil legal protection” for those who help an employee get an abortion.

The letters have also called for the companies to “discontinue all political donations to anti-abortion candidates and political action committees immediately.” The group of showrunners — which includes Shonda Rhimes, Issa Rae, Natasha Lyonne, Mindy Kaling and many other — gave a deadline of 10 business days from its issuance.

Those letters were followed up on Aug. 1 by 594 male showrunners issuing a statement of support, who wrote, “Abortion access doesn’t only affect people who can become pregnant. It affects us all.” The men’s letters were issued by replying-all to the first ones.

These demands from the creative community were incited by the Supreme Court’s June 24 Dobbs decison, which overturned Roe v. Wade, effectively ending federal protections for abortion access.

The studios’ response defers to the health plans of the individual unions, stating that “several of these industry health plans have already adopted amendments providing for reimbursement for travel expenses associated with securing abortion services for participants and their dependents who reside or work in states where such services cannot be lawfully obtained.”

It goes on to say that they are “continuing to evaluate ways that we can best provide for our employees and workers who support our productions,” which appears to open a door for more protocols to be put in place.

The letter — which was signed by AMC Networks, Amazon Studios, Apple TV+, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Discovery, the original recipients of the showrunners’ pursuits — ends on a buoyant note: “We look forward to working with you to continue to make great content for our audiences around the world.”

The coalition of showrunners has retained a publicist, who had no comment.

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Thank you for your letter of July 28, 2022. We share your concerns around the health, safety and well-being of our dedicated employees and the people who support our productions. We believe they should have access to safe and effective health care, and their privacy should be protected.

Each of our individually designed corporate health plans provides comprehensive health care coverage for our respective employees. We have been independently updating our respective employees – who live and work throughout the country – as plans and policies change and expand to provide reproductive care and other support now needed in states that have restricted or outlawed abortion access.

Most workers on scripted film and TV productions are covered by industry health plans that are jointly administered by union and management trustees under the collective bargaining framework. In partnership with various industry health plan staff and the union trustees on those plans, our management trustees worked swiftly to review existing health benefits, and several of these industry health plans have already adopted amendments providing for reimbursement for travel expenses associated with securing abortion services for participants and their dependents who reside or work in states where such services cannot be lawfully obtained. We understand the other industry health plans will be considering similar changes this month. The participants in the various industry plans have been receiving communications directly from the plans about these amendments.

We are pleased that our industry partners have quickly addressed this important issue and are committed to continuing to evaluate ways that we can best provide for our employees and workers who support our productions.

We want to assure you that we are individually focused on supporting the health, safety, well-being and privacy of our respective employees and those who support our productions as we continue to monitor this evolving situation. We look forward to working with you to continue to make great content for our audiences around the world.

Signed,

AMC Networks, Amazon Studios, Apple TV+, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Discovery.

Note: This story was updated to note Lionsgate’s absence from the signatories.

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