Alyssa Milano urges sex strike in protest against Georgia abortion law

  • Published
Alyssa Milano addressing reportersImage source, AFP/Getty
Image caption,
Alyssa Milano's call for a sex strike drew an immediate backlash online

Actress and #MeToo activist Alyssa Milano has urged women to take part in a "sex strike" to protest against a new abortion law in the state of Georgia.

"Until women have legal control over our own bodies we just cannot risk pregnancy," she tweeted.

Georgia is the latest state to enact legislation restricting abortion.

Ms Milano's tweet divided opinion on social media, sparking a debate that led to the #SexStrike hashtag trending on Twitter in the US.

The so-called "heartbeat" bill, which was signed by Governor Brian Kemp on Tuesday, is scheduled to come into effect on 1 January.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

What is the bill and why is it controversial?

The law bans abortions as soon as a foetal heartbeat can be detected - which is at about six weeks into a pregnancy.

Many women do not know they are pregnant by six weeks, with morning sickness usually starting after about nine weeks.

However, the law is expected to face challenges in the courts.

A federal judge blocked such a law in Kentucky which was scheduled to come into effect immediately as it could be unconstitutional, while Mississippi passed a six-week abortion law in March that is not due to take effect until July and is also facing challenges.

Ohio passed a similarly restrictive law in 2016 which was vetoed by the governor.

What about the 'sex strike'?

Ms Milano tweeted out her call for action on Saturday, and both she and the hashtag #SexStrike were soon trending on Twitter.

More than 35,000 people have liked her tweet, and it has been retweeted more than 12,000 times. Fellow actress Bette Midler tweeted in support of Ms Milano.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

But there was an immediate backlash online, both from those who support the new law and from those who criticised the idea that women only have sex to please men.

"I appreciate the intent, but a #sexstrike is a bad and sexist idea," wrote one person on Twitter. "As if we provided sex as a reward to the worthy. It's denying women's pleasure".

"Self-denial and abstinence for some sort of gain is the antithesis of a sexually empowered world," wrote another.

In her defence, Ms Milano later tweeted a Quartz article about how sex strikes can work - prompting further criticism online.

And the actors' boycott?

During the abortion bill's passage, 50 actors proposed a boycott of film and television production in the state - including Ms Milano, Amy Schumer, Christina Applegate, Alec Baldwin and Sean Penn.

"We want to stay in Georgia," the letter reads. "But we will not do so silently, and we will do everything in our power to move our industry to a safer state for women if [this] becomes law."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Other actors have also voiced their support, as have the heads of several independent production companies.

However, some in the industry have not committed to the boycott and are waiting to see what comes of any potential legal challenges.

Chris Ortman, a spokesman for the Motion Picture Association, issued a statement saying the group planned to "monitor developments".

"Film and television production in Georgia supports more than 92,000 jobs and brings significant economic benefits to communities and families," he said.

"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 outcome in Georgia will also be determined through the legal process."

And others in Georgia itself recommend supporting efforts to challenge the new law, rather than to boycott the state.

"What about the working class folks who are going to be impacted in rural communities throughout the state? What is a boycott of the film industry going to do for them?" activist and poet Aurielle Marie wrote in a Twitter thread, calling on actors to instead pay money to support local organisations.

The Georgia governor's office said film and television productions brought $2.7bn (£2.1bn) into the state in 2018. Hollywood blockbusters Black Panther and The Hunger Games series were filmed there, as were the programmes Stranger Things and The Walking Dead.