MAJOR Hollywood studios have been urged to stop filming in Northern Ireland over the country's strict abortion laws.
It comes after Disney and Netflix threatened to withdraw from the US state of Georgia over proposed legislation which would make terminations illegal after the detection of a foetal heartbeat.
Disney CEO Bob Iger warned it would be "very difficult" to continue shooting in the state should the ban come into effect, while Netflix chiefs said they would "rethink" their whole investment there should the law pass.
However, women's rights campaigners in the UK have now pointed out that both studios – and several actors supporting the Georgia boycott – have nevertheless been happy to work in Northern Ireland, where women can face life in prison for terminating a pregnancy.
One of the biggest stars who have signed a public pledge to no longer work in US states with strict abortion laws is English actress Sophie Turner, famed for her role as Sansa Stark in the HBO series Game of Thrones – which was almost exclusively filmed in the North.
When it was pointed out that she had filmed eight series of GoT in Northern Ireland during an interview with Sky News, Ms Turner said "luckily we're moving on" – after the fantasy drama's final episode aired earlier this month.
'There needs to be consistency'
UK pro-choice campaign group Abortion Rights urged Hollywood to "consider Northern Ireland in the same light" as Georgia or Alabama, which passed its own near-full ban on abortions in recent weeks.
Kerry Abel, chairwoman of Abortion Rights UK, noted that the North has "one of the strictest bans on abortion in the world", even more stringent than the Georgia proposal.
"Regardless of where they live, women will always need safe, free, legal and local abortions," she said.
"The hundreds of women who are forced to travel to England and Wales every year – and more that take abortion pills attest to that".
She added: "Those benefiting from tax breaks in Northern Ireland, the likes of Netflix and Disney, should know that women who pay their taxes are not getting access to healthcare on the NHS for their abortions.
"If they think that it is not acceptable to operate in Georgia they should consider Northern Ireland in the same light."
The Northern Irish campaign group Alliance for Choice also called for "some consistency" on the issue from Hollywood studios and actors.
Co-chair Emma Campbell said there is often a "blind spot" when it comes to the reality of life for women in Northern Ireland, who have to travel abroad for terminations.
"It shouldn’t be one rule for Georgia and one rule for Northern Ireland," she said.
"Companies like Disney making a public statement could put political pressure on in a way that an activist group like ourselves just can't."
Both Disney and Netflix refused to comment publicly on the row this week, reports the Telegraph.
However, the paper said it understands Netflix executives believe the situation in the North is different because women have been denied abortions there for hundreds of years – while women in Georgia may have their rights taken away.
The proposed abortion ban in the US state would make terminations illegal after the detection of a foetal heartbeat.
Doctors can detect a heartbeat after about six weeks, which is often before a woman becomes aware she is pregnant.
The legislation is set to be challenged in the courts, but will come into force on January 1 if the challenges are rejected.