Weathering the Storm: Georgia Heartbeat Bill v. Film Industry

“Anything that annoys you is for teaching you patience. Anyone who abandons you is for teaching you how to stand upon your own two feet. Anything that angers you is for teaching you forgiveness and compassion. Anything that has power over you is for teaching you how to take your power back. Anything you hate is for teaching you unconditional love. Anything you fear is for teaching you courage to overcome your fear. Anything you can’t control is for teaching you how to let go and trust the Universe.”

-Jackson Kiddard, French entrepreneur, philosopher, and yogi (c. 1901)

I recently read a funny sentiment about Georgia. Funny, because I happen to adore the taste and health benefits of blueberries – I blend them into my morning smoothies and enjoy blueberry buttermilk pancakes as a treat on weekends. But I read that, Atlanta is considered the “Blueberry of the South.” Of course, the reference to the color blue is political.

The southern United States is no stranger to political discourse. We have a long history of being the outlier in certain arenas. You may recall the Civil War, during which the South seceded from the Union. The Union won the Civil War, and the United States ratified the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, which signaled a change in how our courts interpreted the Bill of Rights. Before the 14th Amendment, the courts applied the Bill of Rights to the States pursuant to its 5th Amendment due process clause; but, the 14th Amendment provided for due process to individuals via the States. Any law student taking Constitutional Law II (i.e., Individual Liberties) should be able to explain the doctrine of incorporation, which our Supreme Court’s Justices debated for decades in their illustrious opinions. However, the bottom line is that any person benefits from basic human and fundamental rights under our state and federal laws.

On May 7, 2019, Governor Brian Kemp signed the controversial Heartbeat Bill into law in Georgia. Those who oppose the bill allege it violates the basic human rights of women. Those who support the bill believe it enables human embryos with basic human rights. Basic human rights in this context are personal autonomy, or, the right to determine for oneself a course of action in one’s life. Thus, capacity to make such decisions rests at the core of this basic human right. If one cannot make such decisions independently, then those decisions are delegated to a legal guardian in each individual case. In lieu of the courts, it appears that the bill would have legislators make a blanket decision on behalf of all human embryos (with few exceptions, which exceptions require further documentation by law enforcement) to reach birth.

Those who oppose the bill further argue that it violates the fundamental rights of women. Fundamental rights in this context are privacy, incorporated via the 4th Amendment to be free from unreasonable searches, or intrusions by government actors. Here, such freedom equates to privacy to make decisions where such decisions involve morals not regulated by government. Often such morals derive from religious beliefs. Accordingly, if this legislation is subject to judicial review, then it may be approached in two ways. One approach is for issues not expressly stated in the Bill of Rights that involve morals to be left to States to determine for their residents pursuant to States’ plenary powers (e.g. health, safety, welfare). Another approach acknowledges that residents of States do not all share the same morals in our pluralistic society with a multitude of religious beliefs (including no religion) and accordingly, laws should enable individuals to make moral decisions independent of government.

Finally, those who oppose the bill argue that it further contravenes federal law (Supreme Court precedent) decided under Roe v. Wade. As the highest court in the United States, the Supreme Court is ultimately empowered to determine what the law is (to paraphrase Justice John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison 5 U.S. 137 (1803)). Accordingly, any decision it makes carries the weight of federal law and States must abide. In view that Georgia in passing the bill has not abided the Supreme Law of the Land (a reference to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Art. VI, para. 2), the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Atlanta-based nonprofit advocacy group SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and abortion providers filed a complaint challenging the constitutionality of the legislation. If unsuccessful, the law goes into effect on January 1, 2020. Whether or not a law is constitutional is a determination made by the judges and Justices of the Judicial Branch of government. I expect vigorous arguments from either side as each side believes that it represents truth.

What I do not expect, is to focus on this issue further. I trust that my colleagues, who are taking on this challenge, will do their very best and that justice will be served. Looking back, indeed justice has been present when States challenged basic human and fundamental rights available to people of color and those with different sexual preferences. I thought about discussing how courts evaluate laws for their constitutionality, but decided to instead talk about how I am coping, in spite of the outcome. I am not the one making laws (albeit indirectly by voting), nor will I be presenting the arguments, nor am I deciding the case. In a way, I have no control over the outcome, but what I can control is how I respond to it. Therefore, this article is about weathering the storm – and really, steering your boat through, around, or over any situation where you may feel morally or otherwise challenged and at a loss of control.

That this law even made its way into the General Assembly has negatively impacted the film industry in Georgia. Many women travel to work here on productions, live or have moved here to work in and be actively part of the Georgia film industry. Because the Georgia law may radically differ from the law of their home state or state of origin, these women (and men who support them) are choosing not to work in Georgia. Supporters, who oppose the law, have individually pulled out of productions scheduled to film here, or they have vowed not to film here. Studios, who depend upon labor to sell their productions, have decided to wait and see whether the law takes effect before taking a stand whether or not to film here. Others have chosen to film here and donate the proceeds to fund the fight against the law. But what about the people of Georgia, who live or relocated here or may not be able to travel or relocate?

The good news is that while the film industry is at odds, others, who employ production crew, are not. Earlier this year, I attended an invigorating seminar at my alma mater, Georgia State University College of Law, that gives me hope for the future of entertainment in Georgia – sports entertainment. Entitled, Atlanta Sports Explosion: the Business & Legal Impact, it featured speakers on topics from real estate, to e-sports, and national sporting events, highlighting Super Bowl LIII. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms delivered a lively speech on her efforts and involvement in curating an environment that invites large-scale sporting events, such as the NCAA Final Four in April 2020. E-sports itself has several major events including community tournaments and studios including the ΞLEAGUE at Turner Broadcasting. These smaller to larger scale events invite a host of production content from brand activations to criticism and commentary and celebrity endorsements that will all need to be captured by local crew.

In addition, Georgia has homegrown talent, production companies and studios that provide the means to producing content for export. From newly-launched Areu Bros. Studios, to Tyler Perry Studios or Will Packer Productions on the independent side, to WarnerMedia and Turner Broadcasting on the major side, Georgia will continue to create and produce original content and employ Georgians, who have qualifications to make that happen. After serving this local industry for almost seven years, and having served the two most recent years as a board member for Women in Film & Television Atlanta, I confidently state that we are a strong, united industry. We can and will weather the storm, pivot to other roles, or create new ones. I have faith. The important thing to remember is that change is the only constant. This is a test of our resilience, resolve, and radical acceptance. And if you need a lawyer, call me.

Sources

  • Capelouto, Susanna. (2019, April 16). ‘HeartBeat Bill’ A Test Of Georgia Film Incentives. Retrieved from https://www.wabe.org/heartbeat-bill-a-test-of-georgia-film-incentives/
  • H.B. 481, 155th Gen. Assem., Reg. Sess. (Ga. 2019).
  • Jarvie, Jenny. (2019, May 13). Female film workers in Georgia urge Hollywood not to boycott over abortion ban. Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-georgia-film-workers-hollywood-boycott-20190513-story.html
  • Sandberg, Bryn Elise. (2019, May 15). ‘Fear Street’ Movies to Shoot in Georgia, Will Donate Funds to Fight Abortion Law. Retrieved from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/fear-street-movies-will-shoot-georgia-will-donate-fight-abortion-law-1210935
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  • Nakamura, Reid. (2019, May 21). Reed Morano’s Amazon Drama ‘The Power’ Pulls Out of Georgia Over New Abortion Law. Retrieved from https://www.thewrap.com/reed-moranos-amazon-drama-the-power-pulls-out-of-georgia-over-new-abortion-law/
  • Bluestein, Greg and Prabhu, Maya T. (2019, May 23). DIGGING DEEPER: Georgia DAs divided over prosecution of ‘heartbeat’ law. Retrieved from https://www.ajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/georgia-das-divided-over-prosecution-heartbeat-law/cfYuXj3OZHnwd2OZsg1bCP/
  • Maglio, Tony. (2019, May 28). Netflix Will ‘Rethink Our Entire Investment in Georgia’ if Anti-Abortion Law Goes Into Effect. Retrieved from https://www.thewrap.com/netflix-rethink-georgia-investment-anti-abortion-law-ted-sarandos/
  • Porter, Rick. (2019, May 28). Netflix Says It Will Join Fight Against Georgia Abortion Law. Retrieved from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/netflix-says-it-will-join-fight-georgia-abortion-law-1213879
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  • Kilkenny, Katie. (2019, May 30). Viacom, CBS, Sony, AMC, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia Go Public Against Georgia Abortion Law. Retrieved from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/warnermedia-says-it-will-reconsider-production-georgia-abortion-law-holds-1214386
  • Waxman, Sharon. (2019, May 30). Hollywood Takes on the Red States – What’s at Stake in Abortion Showdown. Retrieved from https://www.thewrap.com/hollywood-takes-on-the-red-states-whats-at-stake-in-abortion-showdown/
  • Welk, Brian. (2019, May 30). Major Media Companies Threaten to Pull Production in States With Anti-Abortion Laws. Retrieved from https://www.thewrap.com/sony-joins-disney-netflix-and-warnermedia-in-reconsidering-future-georgia-production/
  • Vlessing, Etan and Siegel, Tatiana. (2019, May 31). Producer Miranda Bailey Pulls Out of Georgia Film Over Abortion Law. Retrieved from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/producer-miranda-bailey-pulls-georgia-film-abortion-law-1215000
  • Peoples, Glenn. (2019, June 3). King Content & Endeavor’s IPO. Retrieved from https://www.pollstar.com/article/king-content-endeavors-ipo-138112
  • Sandberg, Elise. (2019, June 3). Peter Chernin Sets Out to Raise $15M to Fight Anti-Abortion Laws. Retrieved from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/peter-chernin-raise-15-million-fight-anti-abortion-laws-1215410
  • Verhoeven, Beatrice. (2019, June 3). To Boycott or Not to Boycott? Inside Hollywood’s Responses to Anti-Abortion Laws. Retrieved from https://www.thewrap.com/to-boycott-or-not-to-boycott-inside-hollywoods-very-different-responses-to-anti-abortion-laws/
  • Verhoeven, Beatrice. (2019, June 7). Spike Lee Says Hollywood Should ‘Shut It Down’ and Boycott Georgia. Retrieved from https://www.thewrap.com/spike-lee-says-hollywood-should-shut-it-down-and-boycott-georgia/
  • Simon, Mark. (2019, June 12). A Georgia Crew Member to Hollywood: Don’t Boycott, #StayAndFight (Guest Blog). Retrieved from https://www.thewrap.com/georgia-crew-member-hollywood-dont-boycott-abortion-heartbeat-law/
  • Fuster, Jeremy. (2019, June 16). Tiffany Haddish Postpones Atlanta Stand-Up Show Over Abortion Law. Retrieved from https://www.thewrap.com/tiffany-haddish-postpones-atlanta-stand-up-show-over-abortion-law/
  • Welk, Brian. (2019, June 26). Clint Eastwood to Shoot ‘Richard Jewell’ in Georgia Despite Boycott Over Anti-Abortion Law. Retrieved from https://www.thewrap.com/clint-eastwood-to-shoot-richard-jewell-in-georgia-despite-boycott-over-anti-abortion-law/
  • Prabhu, Maya T. (2019, June 28). GEORGIA ABORTION PROVIDERS FILE LAWSUIT CHALLENGING ‘HEARTBEAT’ LAW. Retrieved from https://www.acluga.org/en/news/georgia-abortion-providers-file-lawsuit-challenging-heartbeat-law
  • Prabhu, Maya T. (2019, August 19). Georgia asks judge to dismiss lawsuit challenging ‘heartbeat’ law. Retrieved from https://www.ajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/georgia-asks-judge-dismiss-lawsuit-challenging-heartbeat-law/2y6Th729QP9LSXvq3yAGBI/
  • The above article does not constitute legal advice nor does its presentation to you form an attorney-client relationship. By visiting our website, you agree to be bound by our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. All original content presented herein is the opinion of Lee Morin, Esq. If you wish to contact the author, you may do so by emailing her at lee@morinentlaw.com. Thank you for your attention!

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