Netflix And Disney Don’t Get To Decide Georgia’s Abortion Laws

Netflix And Disney Don’t Get To Decide Georgia’s Abortion Laws

Netflix is saying it will “rethink” its investments in Georgia because of the fetal heartbeat bill that was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp. The law, formerly House Bill 481, is formally known as the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act.” It prohibits abortions in the state after a heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The law allows exceptions in the case of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is in danger.

For now, Netflix will continue filming “Ozark” and other shows in Georgia. But the media giant says it very well might leave if the law goes into effect on January 1, 2020.

Of course, the odds are quite high that a lower court will block the law and thus give the Supreme Court the opportunity to consider its constitutionality and that of similar laws around the nation. Netflix likely knows this, and I can only conclude that its statements related to the Georgia fetal heartbeat law is the company’s way of firing a warning shot to Georgia and similar states: Conform to our Hollywood ideals and values, or we won’t give you our business.

This is very disappointing, because the Georgia fetal heartbeat law is the very essence of democracy and of our republic. The Georgia bill passed by a vote of 92-78 in its lower house and by a vote of 34-19 in its upper house before being signed into law by Kemp. The people of Georgia, through their democratically elected officials, weighed in on the very important issue of when life begins. They decided to protect what they define as vulnerable human beings.

But now, the streaming company that employed Kevin Spacey for years as he harassed cast and crew on the set of “House of Cards,” decides threats of their abandonment should dictate the laws of Georgia (and presumably other states with like-minded legislators and constituents).

Disney is now making similar threats should the law go into effect as intended on January 1. But Disney and Netflix should not serve as the pilots of our moral compass in this country. Netflix, for one, has been accused of not paying its fair share of taxes, and its juggernaut status in entertainment could mean that its size and deep pockets could become influential in policy matters down the road. Perhaps its challenge to the Georgia bill is its way of testing the waters.

Consumers should fight back and let Netflix know that it can’t transplant its values to Georgia or any other state exercising its system of democracy.

It’s worth pointing out that the drama over Netflix and the new abortion law is a consequence of different states offering tax incentives to entertainment production crews. As California became increasingly expensive, states passed bills that were too good for production crews to pass up.

The Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act provides a 20 percent tax credit for companies that spend $500,000 or more on production and post-production in Georgia either in a single production or on multiple projects. The state grants an additional 10 percent tax credit if the finished project includes a promotional logo provided by the state.

So it appears Netflix loves bills that give it huge tax breaks and enables it to avoid the high California taxes. Netflix just also wants to import blue state abortion policy wherever it goes.

Jonathan Hannah is the program director of the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.
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