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SAG Adds Abortion Travel Benefits As Studios Respond To Calls To Do More

File: People protest in response to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022 in Washington, D.C. The Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health overturned the landmark 50-year-old Roe v. Wade case and erased a federal right to an abortion.
(Brandon Bell
Getty Images)
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SAG-AFTRA, the union representing TV and film actors, is adding abortion travel benefits to its health plan.

On Friday, the union announced new reimbursements for health plan members seeking an abortion, including both travel and lodging. While abortion remains legal in California, this would cover those members if they were working on a project in a state with greater restrictions, along with members who live in those states.

People who choose to use this benefit can either go to the state closest to their workplace where abortion is legal, or fly home for the procedure if they live in a state with legal abortion. The new health benefit is available retroactively to Aug. 1.

In a statement, the union wrote:

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“SAG-AFTRA as both a union and an employer is committed to the principle that all our members, all our employees, and indeed all Americans should have equal access to critical, necessary and often life-saving reproductive health care, wherever they live or work.”

SAG-AFTRA joins a growing list of unions and companies that have added this benefit, including the guilds representing writers and directors. It follows the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. A number of states have since put greater restrictions or bans on abortion in place.

The union has also supported a measure to codify abortion protection in California’s state constitution, as well as a state law prohibiting other states that criminalize helping with abortions from using California courts.

Calls For Entertainment Industry Protection

More than 400 female TV show creators and showrunners sent a letter two weeks ago calling on the major entertainment studios to provide a plan that protects abortion access for their employees, including specific provisions listed in the letter. Many of the studios responded in a joint letter Thursday, just before the deadline the writers had set out. They did not commit to the list of demands the writers were asking for, but expressed their shared concern.

The studios also noted that other industry health plans were covering many employees or looking into covering them, particularly those working in scripted programming. Many of those same studios either already covered or expanded coverage to include travel expenses for abortion, including Disney, Netflix, Comcast, Paramount, and Warner Bros. Discovery, but they have not met other demands from the writers' letter.

The specific asks from the original letter included:

  • Abortion travel subsidies for employees of their productions
  • Protocols outlining medical care for production employees that include abortion, such as ectopic pregnancies and other pregnancy complications
  • A policy on criminal and civil legal protections for anyone on a production who facilitates the company’s abortion protocols or provides those guidelines to an employee seeking an abortion
  • A pledge to discontinue political donations to anti-abortion candidates and political action committees, effective immediately

The letter was also later co-signed by nearly 600 male TV creators and showrunners. The studios' response is now under review by the writers.

Note: Some of our newsroom staff — including reporters, producers, hosts, and others — are unionized through SAG-AFTRA.

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