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Rising Democratic Party Star Urges Hollywood Not To Leave Georgia Over Abortion Law


There is a growing push in Hollywood to boycott the state of Georgia. It comes in response to Georgia passing a bill that restricts abortion. But a rising star in the Democratic Party is urging Hollywood not to leave. Stacey Abrams, who lost a close race for governor of Georgia last year, says this is the wrong strategy, that it could cost tens of thousands of jobs of people who work in Georgia's entertainment industry.

Rachel Martin talked to Abrams in Los Angeles, where she has been meeting with Hollywood executives this week.

STACEY ABRAMS: There is a strong emphasis on showing our values through boycotts. And as a daughter of the South, I appreciate that. But the solution to this challenge does not come simply from removing economic opportunities. It actually comes from changing the composition of our leadership because, while the forced pregnancy bill is one attempt to remove access to health care, there are other bills that will follow if this one doesn't succeed.

If we want a permanent solution, we need a permanent change. And that means investing in political change in the state of Georgia. And that's why I need people to stay and fight.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Although can't you do both to some degree? I mean, there are examples of how economic boycotts can at least create public pressure that leads to change. I'm thinking of the 2016 boycott of North Carolina over the transgender bathroom bill or the boycott that happened in Indiana over the tension between gay rights and religious freedom. I mean, those boycotts created public pressure that helped leverage change.

ABRAMS: They did. But we have to remember that the LGBTQ community spent years building a narrative within the corporations. That work, while it's happening now, has not reached the same place. That's why you see that it's the entertainment industry that's pushing back, but when the religious freedom bills were moving, it was Fortune 500 companies, it was tech companies.

The challenge is that, in two years, this bill will likely become law. And if we want to repeal it, we have to recognize that the people who pass this law - for those legislators, this is endemic to how they win elections. These are not people who are going to rescind their beliefs or their votes. And so the most effective way to change the outcome is to actually change the people who are making the decisions.

MARTIN: Do you think Democrats have missed the boat in not creating the kind of foundation and structure around abortion that Republicans have over the years?

ABRAMS: I don't think that they've missed the boat. I think there is a belief that because the Supreme Court had made Roe v. Wade settled law and because, for 40 years, the battle - despite being joined - had never truly moved in the direction of repeal of Roe v. Wade, I think Democrats did believe that we were in a safer position.

However, my responsibility is to meet the challenge where it stands. And I'm proud of the work that's being done by reproductive choice groups. I'm proud of the voices we're hearing coming out of the Democratic leaders. But we also have to remember that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, it doesn't ban abortion, it simply returns the responsibility to the state.

And if we want the state of Georgia to be effective, to have a business climate that invites, not only the entertainment industry, but other companies, we have to solve our health care crisis - and that includes solving the crisis of making sure women have access to health care by having access to reproductive choice.

MARTIN: Former Vice President Joe Biden recently reversed his long-held support for something called the Hyde Amendment, which essentially bans federal funding for abortion. Do you believe all Democrats should have a uniform position on all aspects of the abortion debate?

ABRAMS: I believe that leaders are required to serve the people. And abortion access is a health care right. It is the way women can control their bodies and control their futures, their economic destiny. And while your personal beliefs are absolutely yours, as a leader, I believe that we should be pushing for and electing leaders who reflect that value, who believe that women should have the right to make health care decisions for themselves and their families.

MARTIN: That should be a litmus test for all Democrats running for president?

ABRAMS: I don't use that language. But I do think that, for the purposes of this election, we have uniformity among the candidates. And I think that's a good thing.

MARTIN: There are more than 20 Democrats running for president. Is there space for you?

ABRAMS: I think that there is space for me should I decide that I can add value to this contest - I have not decided that yet. And my job right now is to protect jobs in Georgia and to protect women in Georgia by, not only holding on to the entertainment industry jobs that we have, but also thinking about the next five years, the next 10 years, the next 40 years.

We should not have to continue litigating bodily autonomy for women, reproductive freedom for women. And my mission is the most strategic way we can secure those rights, and right now, that means staying and fighting in Georgia.

KING: That was Stacey Abrams talking with Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.