Women in Hollywood Demand Industry Support for Abortion Access in a Post-Roe v. Wade World (Video)

TheGrill 2022: Jodie Sweetin, Nicole Jefferson Asher and Kirsten Schaffer address coalition-building to safeguard abortion with moderator Ivy Kagan Bierman

Detail-oriented support networks and safety hotlines need to be established to aid production workers who may need reproductive health care, notably abortions, panelists said during TheGrill’s virtual conversation on how Hollywood — and the nation at large — should mobilize in a post-Roe v. Wade world

In a panel held during TheWrap’s two-day business conference, TheGrill, moderator Ivy Kagan Bierman, chair of entertainment labor at Loeb & Loeb LLP; actress and activist Jodie Sweetin; writer and producer Nicole Jefferson Asher and Women in Film CEO Kirsten Schaffer discussed the industry’s next steps in protecting individuals’ rights, particularly in states hostile to the right. 

“Women on set need a place and someone that they can call, a representative, much like we do with sexual harassment hotlines or other work problem hotlines. We need a place where women can call and say, ‘I’m in Georgia. I’m in Kentucky, and I am working, and I need an abortion or I’m having a miscarriage. What are the steps I take?’” Sweetin said, adding that an external organization should work in partnership with a given production to codify the logistical steps — such as time off and travel — an employee needs to be supported and safe regardless of their locale.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn the 1973 landmark ruling, sectors of Hollywood sprung to action. Spurred by an initial group of 400 female, trans and nonbinary showrunners, creatives in the industry demanded studios, streamers and networks provided resources and protection for their workers. The coalition has since ballooned to 1,500 individuals, who have partnered with National Network of Abortion Funds to raise $3 million in donations. Other groups, like the Writers Guild of America, have also joined the efforts. Organizations like Women in Film have compiled resources for crew members.

Despite some organizing efforts, Asher spoke broadly in saying that she has been disappointed in both the industry response (criticizing it as “muted”) and nationwide reactions to the decision.

“It’s an unfolding situation, but I’m a little disappointed in the response throughout the country, actually. There hasn’t been the level of outrage and defiance that I think these laws require,” she said, adding that the laws are about “criminalizing women,” as well as “stealing human rights.”

(Following the reversal, experts, politicians and others have speculated the Court will go after other privacy-based protections, including the right to same-sex marriage and contraception.)

Aside from presenting Hollywood with a “workplace safety” issue, as Asher put it, the panelists emphasized the power of storytelling in destigmatizing and authentically portraying abortion storylines and reproductive health care narratives in a post-Roe environment. 

Schaffer said her organization has pulled together a list of films and series that incorporated abortion stories, having found such depictions lacking.

“When it does happen, it’s often around the trauma. We aren’t seeing it normalized like a normal medical procedure,” she said. “We need more of that, in the same way that it needs to be easier to say the words: vagina, miscarriage, abortion … We have all of these ways that we disguise it, as opposed to just coming right out and talking about it. And that’s the cultural shift that the industry, that the creators are instrumental in galvanizing.”

About TheGrill

For over a decade, WrapPRO’s Grill event series has led the conversation on the convergence between entertainment, media and technology, bringing together newsmakers to debate the challenges and opportunities facing content in the digital age. Tailored to a C-suite and innovative, forward thinking  attendees, the event delivers a unique series of curated discussions, industry panels and virtual networking activations that explore the ever-changing media landscape. For more information about TheGrill visit thegrill.thewrap.com

TheGrill 2022 sponsors include Loeb & Loeb, City National Bank, Gracenote, Warner Bros. Discovery, Gerber Kawasaki, Sony Pictures, Take-Two Interactive, SAG-AFTRA, New York Festivals, Samba TV and IMAX.