After the Heartbeat (Bill): To Leave or Not to Leave

Published by Imani Benjamin on

After the Heartbeat (Bill):
To Leave or Not to Leave?

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that House Bill 481 criminalized abortions at six weeks; HB 481 criminalizes abortion after the first detection of cardiac activity. 

Republicans and Democrats have been fighting like cats and dogs over abortion for years. And once again, Hollywood steps into the fight. The latest in the abortion struggle is the heartbeat bill

In May of this year, Governor Brian Kemp signed the heartbeat bill, or HB 481, into law. The bill criminalizes abortions when a ‘detectable human heartbeat’ or ‘…fetal cardiac activity’ is present. A fetal heartbeat can be heard between six to eight weeks of pregnancy. This period is also around the time some women learn they are pregnant.  

Georgia is one of four states to successfully pass a heartbeat bill, and it is amongst 16 attempting to ban abortions since 2015. Among the 16 states are Louisiana, Ohio, Alabama and Missouri.

Melerik Rosario | Avant Youth

HB 481 defines a heartbeat as proof of a legal human being. So under the new bill, an unborn fetus is deemed a legal individual, and is counted as part of the state population, and the mother can claim it for tax purposes. As a legal individual, the child has the right to representation and an abortion could be regarded as a homicide. 

Heartbeat bills face opposition from organizations like Planned Parenthood and federal courts who call it unconstitutional. The economic hit that Georgia might feel hardest is Hollywood threatening Georgia’s entertainment industry. Hollywood joined the ranks of communities that threaten Georgia’s flourishing economy by leaving and taking their business elsewhere.

Avengers: Endgame | Marvel Studios
Avengers: Endgame | Marvel Studios

Atlanta generates about $9.5 billion from its film industry. Around 400 productions were filmed or produced in Georgia last year, including The Walking Dead, Netflix’s Ozark, as well as big budget movies Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War.

Georgia offers $800 million in tax credits to film companies making it cheap and therefore attractive for companies to film in the state (Baby Driver (2017) was filmed on and around Georgia State University and Venom (2018) was filmed in the Georgia World Congress Center). 

The proposed boycott has spelt danger for Atlanta’s young creatives. Although companies like Disney and Netflix currently sit on the fence regarding whether or not they’ll remain in Georgia, there is a strong possibility that they’ll  follow stars and producers who decide to pull out of Georgia. 

The message these companies want to send – supporting Georgia’s women by taking their business somewhere else – will be useless to the people left without jobs. The film industry has generated over 90,000 jobs for Georgians. Should these opportunities leave? There’s no guarantee the workers will go with the companies, and it’s less likely, they’d do so unless they’re being sponsored.  

Pinewood Studios | Pinewood Studios Atlanta
Pinewood Studios | Pinewood Studios Atlanta

Plenty of voices dissent Hollywood’s boycott of Georgia. Stacey Abrams, J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele are among those advocating for a solution to the conflict HB 481 has caused. J.J. Abrams and Peele are continuing to film in Georgia (specifically the upcoming show Lovecraft Country), while providing donations to Stacey Abrams’ voting group (Fair Fight Georgia) and the ACLU, hoping to challenge the law. 

While nothing is set in stone, Atlanta’s creatives should keep a close eye on how these major corporations decide to follow their talent or support their workers. More importantly, though: We should all keep a close eye on how these bills come to fruition.

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Imani Benjamin

Imani Benjamin-Wharton is a graduate from Georgia State University with a degree in English. She’s an aspiring novelist hoping to write the next great American novel. In her free time, she learns the secrets of survival from her favorite horror movies.


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