Georgia's ‘heartbeat’ bill could hurt economy as stars vow to boycott state if legislation goes into effect

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Georgia’s controversial “heartbeat” bill has prompted threats from Hollywood stars vowing to boycott the state if the legislation goes into effect in January. If celebrities and production companies follow through with their word, the Peach State’s economy could take a hit.

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Jason Bateman, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer were among the Hollywood heavyweights who’ve recently said they would stop working in Georgia next year if House Bill 481 — which bans abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually at 6 weeks —  takes effect.

"If the 'heartbeat bill' makes it through the court system, I will not work in Georgia, or any other state, that is so disgracefully at odds with women’s rights," Bateman, who stars in Netflix’s “Ozark” and HBO’s “The Outsider” which are filmed in Georgia, told the Hollywood Reporter.

Jason Bateman and Ron Howard said recently they would stop working in Georgia if the "heartbeat" bill goes into effect in January. Alyssa Milano was among the stars who signed a letter vowing to boycott the state. (Getty Images)

Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, who run Imagine Entertainment, also told the magazine that although they are choosing to move forward with their scheduled film shoot of the Netflix movie “Hillbilly Elegy” in Georgia later this month, they will discontinue production in the state if the bill is enacted.

"After much thought and deliberation, we decided to continue with shooting Hillbilly Elegy in Georgia next month," Imagine Entertainment said in a statement. "We felt we could not abandon the hundreds of women, and men, whose means of support depend on this production – including those who directly contribute on the film, and the businesses in the community that sustain the production.”

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“We see Governor Kemp’s bill as a direct attack on women’s rights, and we will be making a donation to the ACLU to support their battle against this oppressive legislation. Should this law go into effect in January, we will boycott the state as a production center,” the statement added.

Georgia has largely benefited from the film and television industry by providing 30 percent tax incentives to companies. The state, dubbed "the Hollywood of the South," is the most popular filming location in the U.S. and the site to some blockbusters like “Avengers: Endgame.”

A record 455 projects were produced in the state in the 2018 fiscal year, generating about $9.5 billion. More than 92,100 jobs were created, making up nearly $4.6 billion in Georgia’s total wages, according to the state report.

The state’s tourism is also booming. Georgia saw a 4.7 percent increase in its tourism industry that generated a record-breaking $66.2 billion in 2018.

“The tourism industry is a leading contributor to Georgia’s economic growth and prosperity,” Kemp said in a news release earlier this month. “Not only does our state welcome a record number of visitors each year, but travel and tourism creates jobs for 471,000 Georgians.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the "heartbeat" bill earlier this month. (AP)

The state could lose out on thousands of jobs if production companies choose to move projects.

Low-income Georgians and small businesses contracted to provide catering, maintenance and construction for productions would feel a major impact, said Krystal Redman, executive director of SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, a grassroots Georgia group that has advocated against the abortion legislation.

The majority of the people in the entertainment industry have stayed quiet about the abortion issue, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Major studios, including Netflix and Disney, are appearing to hold off on taking drastic actions before January.

"Film and television production in Georgia supports more than 92,000 jobs and brings significant economic benefits to communities and families," Chris Ortman, a spokesman for the film trade organization The Motion Picture Association of America, said last week. "It is important to remember that similar legislation has been attempted in other states, and has either been enjoined by the courts or is currently being challenged."

The MPAA said it will continue to monitor developments.

Although Kemp signed the bill into law, the legislation is expected to face hurdles in court in the coming months. Kemp acknowledged the "heartbeat" bill's road ahead and mocked “C-list celebrities” who were boycotting the state.

“I understand that some folks don’t like this new law. I’m fine with that. We’re elected to do what’s right – and standing up for precious life is always the right thing to do,” Kemp said Saturday, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “We are the party of freedom and opportunity. We value and protect innocent life — even though that makes C-list celebrities squawk.”

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Alyssa Milano, Alec Baldwin and Ben Stiller joined more than 50 actors in April who signed a letter stating they would drop out of projects if House Bill 481 becomes law and companies continue filming in the state. Some have said they would donate to groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union instead.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.