On July 28, more than 400 television creators, showrunners, and writers wrote to several production companies, demanding that the companies have abortion protocols in place to help their employees who live in states that have outlawed abortion. The letter came in response to the Supreme Court of the United States overturning Roe v. Wade — the law that protected a woman’s right to choose abortion. Right after Roe was overturned, The Walt Disney Company –along with dozens of other companies — announced that they would cover all costs for employees who needed to travel to have an abortion.
While Disney and those other companies immediately spoke up in support of their employees and their personal abortion care, the 400+ television creatives did not feel that that was enough. The letter asked the following of Disney, Amazon, Netflix, Lionsgate, and more:
Within ten business days of today we require review of your current abortion safety plan detailing [said company’s] policies and processes to ensure our safety, protect our health and defend our human rights. We expect that the specifics of your current plan address this emergency in full, including but not limited to:
● Published policies and procedures to provide an abortion travel subsidy for employees of your productions including specific information on how the employee’s medical privacy will be safeguarded.
● Protocols outlining the scope of medical care for employees of your productions, including ectopic pregnancies and other pregnancy complications that require medical treatment via abortion while working for Netflix.
● Policy regarding criminal and civil legal protection, including indemnification and defense against liability, for any member of a production who facilitates Netflix’s protocols or provides Netflix’s policy information and guidelines to an employee seeking an abortion.
● Pledge to discontinue all political donations to anti-abortion candidates and political action committees immediately.
Well, it has been just about 10 business days and most of the companies listed in the letter — with the exception of Lionsgate — have written a letter in response. Disney did not write its own letter, but instead joined with Netflix, Paramount, and others, in writing one, which was shared with The Hollywood Reporter and reads as follows:
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.
AMC Networks, Amazon Studios, Apple TV+, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Discovery
In their letter, the networks did not specifically address the demands for abortion protocols and abortion coverage. They reiterated that they have health plans that cover travel expenses for certain medical procedures. The letter also stated that some employees are in unions that have their own health plans that have already adopted plans to cover travel costs and medical expenses for abortion care. However, the companies did say that they are always reevaluating their health policies and procedures and may update them at any time.