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Original research article
Telling stories about abortion: abortion-related plots in American film and
television, 19162013
Gretchen Sisson, Katrina Kimport
University of California, San Francisco
Received 26 July 2013; revised 29 December 2013; accepted 31 December 2013
Objectives: Popular discourse on abortion in film and television assumes that abortions are under- and misrepresented. Research indicates
that such representations influence public perception of abortion care and may play a role in the production of social myths around abortion,
with consequences for womens experience of abortion. To date, abortion plotlines in American film and television have not been
systematically tracked and analyzed.
Study design: A comprehensive online search was conducted to identify all representations of pregnancy decision making and abortion in
American film and television through January 2013. Search results were coded for year, pregnancy decision and mortality outcome.
Results: A total of 310 plotlines were identified, with an overall upward trend over time in the number of representations of abortion decision
making. Of these plotlines, 173 (55.8%) resulted in abortion, 80 (25.8%) in parenting, 13 (4.2%) in adoption and 21 (6.7%) in pregnancy
loss, and 16 (5.1%) were unresolved. A total of 13.5% (n= 42) of stories ended with the death of the woman who considered an abortion,
whether or not she obtained one.
Conclusions: Abortion-related plotlines occur more frequently than popular discourse assumes. Year-to-year variation in frequency suggests
an interactive relationship between media representations, cultural attitudes and policies around abortion regulation, consistent with cultural
theory of the relationship between media products and social beliefs. Patterns of outcomes and rates of mortality are not representative of real
experience and may contribute to social myths around abortion. The narrative linking of pregnancy termination with mortality is of particular
note, supporting the social myth associating abortion with death.
Implications: This analysis empirically describes the number of abortion-related plotlines in American film and television. It contributes to
the systematic evaluation of the portrayal of abortion in popular culture and provides abortion care professionals and advocates with an initial
accurate window into cultural stories being told about abortion.
© 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Media; Culture; Unintended pregnancy; Pregnancy outcomes; Maternal death
1. Introduction
In the past decade, popular discourse has alternately
declared abortion to be televisions most persistent taboo
[1],no longer taboo[2] and still taboo[3]. News
accounts have asserted that abortion is underrepresented in
film and television [410], estimating the quantity of
abortion-related plotlines anywhere from a single instance
[11] to on average only once every two and a half years
since 1972[12], with the further assertion that narrative
devices such as false pregnancies or pregnancy losses are
specifically used to avoid abortion-related storylines [4,7].
The presumption that abortion stories are rare, avoided and
enduringly taboo in American popular culture is prevalent.
Yet, a comprehensive investigation of the number of
abortion stories in film and television and the pregnancy
outcomes in such stories has remained absent from the
literature, leaving researchers without a clear picture of how
popular culture portrays abortion.
Research analyzing specific abortion stories on film and
television has found that, like many depictions of medical
experiences [13,14], they are not always representative of the
Contraception 89 (2014) 413 418
Disclosures/conflict of interest: none.
Corresponding author. University of California, San Francisco,
Oakland, CA 94612. Tel.: + 1 510 986 8951.
E-mail address: (G. Sisson).
0010-7824/$ see front matter © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
reality of abortion care in the United States [1518],
inaccurately depicting medical procedures, clinics and who
seeks abortions for what reasons. Such inaccuracies in
entertainment television typically function in ways that uphold
conservative, hegemonic structures [19], though we do not
know whether or how this applies to abortion stories. Few
scholars have examined fictional depictions of abortion decision
making. Condit [20] represents a notable exception, finding that
the overall pattern of fictional unintended pregnancies resolu-
tion in the 1980s overrelied on the narrative trope of a false
pregnancy. Nonetheless, research has not systematically
examined the number and overall outcome trends in abortion-
trends is problematic, as without one we do not know if and in
what ways abortion is represented inaccurately.
This absence is of consequence as research has shown that
media portrayals influence viewers through a variety of
means. Scholars have shown that news coverage, particularly
in the form of in-depth stories about people with whom
viewers identify, can sway not only personal opinions but
also political priorities [21]. In-depth fictional programming,
especially plotlines showcasing characters in whom viewers
are invested, functions in a similar way [22,23]. Scholars
have demonstrated that this holds for fictional depictions of
pregnancy decision making and abortion. Mulligan and
Habel [24] found that after viewing one of two fictional films
about pregnancy-decision making one in which abortion
was framed in a favorable light and one in which it was
portrayed more negatively subjects were significantly
more likely to support access to legal abortion in a greater
range of circumstances after viewing the former film. On an
aggregate scale, abortion stories, to the extent that they
repeat similar themes, can alter public understanding [25]:
the cinematic construction of a poignant ultrasound scene,
the rhetorical avoidance of the word abortionor the
circumstances of a fictional characters pregnancy all
cultivate a common cultural idea about what pregnancy,
abortion and women seeking abortion are like [16,20,2628]
and may play a role in the production of social myths about
abortion and abortion stigma, with consequences for the
lived experience of women seeking abortions [29].
In this paper, we conduct a census of plotlines that engage
with abortion in US television and film since the beginning
of American cinema. In addition to empirically describing
their number, we make an opening contribution to
developing a systematic evaluation of abortion decision
making, analyzing the plotlines for the pregnancy outcome.
This work provides abortion care professionals and women's
health advocates with an initial accurate window into the
cultural stories being told about abortion.
2. Methods
To produce a comprehensive list of all film and television
representations of abortion, we conducted several online
searches. First, we searched the International Movie Database
( for all titles that were tagged with abortionas a
keyword or contained the word abortionin their plot
description. As a catalog of 2.5 million titles from 1887 to the
present including films, television series and television
episodes that has been both crowd- and industry-sourced,
IMDB represents the largest freely available database for
tracking entertainment representations. We searched IMDB
twice, first in December 2012 and then in February 2013, to
cross-check results and add recent titles. Titles that met the
following criteria were included in the results: (a) available to
American audiences; (b) English language; (c) full-length,
scripted stories (short films were excluded); (d) aired before
February 1, 2013. Nonscripted stories (documentaries, reality
television programming and talk shows) were excluded to
preserve a focus on the portrayal of abortion when the creators
of the media had full creative license to determine outcomes.
Because an abortion plotline might be just one of
hundreds of plotlines on a long-running television show
and thus not be included in either a keyword tag or a show
summary on IMDB, in February 2013, we used the search
engine Google to conduct a secondary online search for Web
sites discussing shows featuring abortion plotlines. Specif-
ically, we reviewed results from the search string abortion
on televisionand added any titles included on these pages.
No new titles were found in the 11th through 15th search
result, so we stopped reviewing results.
Finally, we included titles analyzed in published
academic literature reviewed for this paper.
Repetitions were removed from the full list, with further
relevancy exclusions for results that were misclassified and
failed to fulfill the original inclusion criteria, or results where
the use of the word abortor abortiondid not refer to the
medical procedure.
We coded the remaining titles for individual abortion-
related plotlines, as television shows could have multiple
such plotlines over a series, and coded each plotline for year
of release. Movies were coded for producing studio and
television shows for broadcast network and, if possible, for
time of day first aired (e.g., primetime, daytime). Plotlines
were sorted into five categories: (a) abortion as a major plot
point, e.g., a character making a decision around an
unplanned pregnancy; (b) one of the primary characters is
a provider, but the plotline does not directly engage with a
woman considering or choosing abortion; (c) the plot is an
investigation of the murder of an abortion provider but does
not directly consider the experience of providing abortion;
(d) abortion as a minor plot point, e.g., a character reveals a
past abortion without discussion; (e) abortion is discussed
only in the abstract within a religious, political or social
context rather than as an experience.
For the first two categories, we coded each plotline for
outcome of the pregnancy. Possible outcomes included
abortion, parenting, adoption, pregnancy loss (including
false pregnancy) and unresolved. We additionally coded for
the womans mortality at the end of the plotline.
414 G. Sisson, K. Kimport / Contraception 89 (2014) 413418
2.1. Analysis
For the purposes of this analysis, we restricted our sample
to plots in the first two categories. We charted the quantity of
representations each year over time. We then analyzed the
changing proportions of pregnancy outcomes by decade,
followed by an analysis of the rates and patterns of women
dying in these plotlines. All analyses and descriptive
statistics were calculated using Microsoft Excel.
3. Results
The IMDB searches yielded 472 titles, Google search
results found an additional 43 titles, and the review of the
published literature added 35 more unique titles. Of these
550 titles, 208 were excluded for relevance. The remaining
342 titles represented 385 individual abortion plotlines,
which were categorized as follows: 291 plotlines had
abortion as a major plot point; 19 plotlines had an abortion
provider as a primary character; 7 plotlines solely investi-
gated the death of an abortion provider; 45 plotlines had
abortion as a minor plot point; 23 plotlines involved abortion
only being discussed religiously, politically or socially. For
the purposes of this paper, we restrict our analyses below to
the 310 plotlines of the first two categories.
3.1. Number of representations
As Table 1 shows, the number of representations of
abortion stories in American film and television has
increased, though not steadily, since the earliest identified
abortion plotline in a 1916 silent film. Since the 1973 Roe v.
Wade decision, representations have increased each decade
over the decade before by at least 31%. The number of
abortion plotlines from 2003 to 2012 was a 105% increase
over the total from the previous decade, representing a high
of 116 plotlines. Television depictions were not restricted to
marginalized viewing times or places; 69% (n= 97) of the
television plotlines aired on network television (ABC, CBS,
Fox, NBC, PBS) and 90% of these aired during primetime.
While there was an overall upward trend, the increase has
not been smooth. Table 2 illustrates the drastic fluctuations in
the number of abortion stories airing in any single year.
3.2. Pregnancy outcome trends
For 302 of the 310 plotlines, we were able to identify
pregnancy outcomes. Of these 302 plotlines, 173 (57.3%)
included an abortion. This proportion fluctuated by decade,
Table 1
Total plotlines by decade (N= 310)
Combined movie & TV Movies TV
19131922 7 7 0
19231932 3 3 0
19331942 9 9 0
19431952 7 7 0
19531962 13 11 2
19631972 29 22 7
19731982 24 12 12
19831992 44 16 28
19932002 58 33 25
116 49 67
Total 310 169 141
2012 includes January 2013.
Table 2
Total abortion plotlines by year (N= 310)
415G. Sisson, K. Kimport / Contraception 89 (2014) 413418
with a high from 1933 to 42 (88.9%) and a low from 1953 to
62 (30.8%) (Table 3).
Representations of pregnancy decisions produced before
Roe, while fewer, were more often resolved with an abortion
than plotlines produced post-Roe: from 1913 through 1972,
64.7% (n= 44) of abortion plotlines resolved in abortion,
compared to 55.1% (n= 129) from 1973 through February
2013. While abortion represented about 60% of the outcomes
in each of the three decades from 1973 to 2002, abortion
represented a smaller percentage of all outcomes between
2003 and 2012 (48.6%), even as the volume of pregnancy
resolutions through abortion was the highest to date (n= 54).
Rates of resolution through adoption and pregnancy loss
similarly shifted after the Courts decision: before 1973,
2.9% (n= 2) of plotlines concluded with adoption and 1.5%
(n= 1) concluded with pregnancy loss; after 1973, these
percentages increased to 4.7% (n= 11) for adoption and 8.5%
(n=20) for pregnancy loss. The increase in adoption
outcomes is even more historically recent: 20032012 saw
an increase in the proportion of plotlines ending in adoption
(9.0%; n= 10) after no stories resolved in adoption in the two
penultimate decades (19831992 and 19932002).
Sixteen plotlines were coded as unresolved, either
because the story concluded before a decision was made
Table 3
Pregnancy outcomes by decade (n= 302)
Table 4
Prevalence and causes of death in abortion plotlines
416 G. Sisson, K. Kimport / Contraception 89 (2014) 413418
(n= 6) or because the woman died before she could make a
decision about the pregnancy (n= 10).
3.3. Prevalence and causes of death in abortion-related
In all, 13.9% (n= 42) of the stories ended with the death of
the woman who considered an abortion, whether or not she
obtained one.
In 10 stories, the pregnant woman died before a
pregnancy decision could be made. As a pregnancy
resolution, death decreased proportionally over time: 7.3%
(n= 5) of plotlines pre-Roe versus 2.1% (n= 5) of plotlines
post-Roe. All 10 deaths were the result of violence: 9
instances of murder and 1 suicide.
In addition to these 10 characters who died before making
a pregnancy decision, 27 (15.6%) who had abortions later
died: 16 died as a direct result of the abortion, 6 were
murdered, 3 committed suicide or died as a result of self-
injury, 1 died in an accident, and 1 died with no specified
cause of death (Table 4).
Five characters died after choosing to parent (6.2%), all
during childbirth. No characters died after choosing adoption
or experiencing a pregnancy loss.
4. Discussion
This analysis established the volume and distribution over
time of abortion-related plotlines in American television and
film, offering a useful starting point for considering ways
abortion is represented in culture. We found that abortion
stories are more common and have always been more
frequent than popular discourse suggests [112]. We further
document a general growth trend in the quantity of abortion-
related plotlines over time and, more pointedly, when
considered by decade, an increase in the volume of such
plotlines that culminate in an abortion. Although these data
cannot explain the fluctuations in the volume of abortion-
related plotlines and outcomes, the patterns we find suggest
an interactive relationship between media representations,
cultural attitudes and policies around abortion regulation,
consistent with both cultivation analysis and agenda setting
theories of the relationship between media products and
politics [15,17,20,21,23,24,26]. Further investigation of the
relationship between the number of media representations of
abortion and culture is warranted.
Our analysis found that the news medias assertion that
abortion is absent from fictional plotlines is unsupported, but
also points to inaccuracies in its depiction. While we find
overall that many outcomes are represented, most women in
these fictional plotlines who consider abortion do obtain an
abortion, though data from the most recent decade suggest
this trend may be reversing. Consistent with existing
literature critiquing the accuracy of fictional portrayals of
abortion [1518,20], we found that the overall patterns of
pregnancy outcome do not match statistics from real life. For
example, in the most recent decade, 9% of fictional women
placed their newborn for adoption, whereas the real-life
number of women making such a choice is closer to 1% [30].
We also found an unexpectedly high prevalence of death
in storylines about abortion, including the use of death as a
pregnancy resolution for women who considered abortion.
The 9% (n= 16) rate of death directly caused by abortion in
the fictional stories is inaccurately exaggerated; current risk
estimates place risk of death from abortion as statistically
zero [31]. (We note that some of the representations in which
abortion led directly to death were either produced or set
or both before legal abortion made the procedure safer.)
This result is especially important in light of findings that
such fictional depictions not only reflect social discourses
but also influence them [18,2224]; such discourses will be
shaped by the portrayal of abortion as dangerous. While
medical procedures are often represented in inaccurate ways
[13,14], the frequency with which abortion is portrayed as
having adverse outcomes may be unique. Cardiopulmonary
resuscitation, for example, is consistently shown as less risky
and more successful on television than is true of real life
[13]. We speculate that the overrepresentation of both
adoption and mortality outcomes could skew the audiences
perceptions of the legitimacy and safety of abortion. One
limitation of our research is that it does not address the
occurrence of morbidity following fictional abortions, which
may be an additional way in which obtaining an abortion is
portrayed as more risky than it in fact is.
This analysis exposed another, unanticipated pattern
which may further perpetuate the social myth of abortion
as physically risky [29]: the high death rate for women who
considered, but did not obtain, abortions. The frequency of
death for non-procedure-related reasons (e.g., murder)
among women who considered abortion may have even
larger consequences for social understandings of abortion.
Discursively, this association of death with the contempla-
tion of abortion contributes to the ongoing production of
abortion stigma, narratively linking the consideration of
pregnancy termination with violence and death.
This analysis provides insight into the presence and
patterns of abortion-related plotlines in US film and
television, offering an important corrective for the popular
assumption that abortion is absent from these media.
Additionally, insights such as the overrepresentation of
death following abortion are valuable for assessing how
current representations produce and replicate social myths
around abortion, making the lived experiences of obtaining
and providing abortions more difficult. These findings can
be used by abortion care professionals and womens health
advocates to better understand the cultural landscape of
abortion stories.
Funding for this analysis was provided by the David and
Lucile Packard Foundation (2012-37676).
417G. Sisson, K. Kimport / Contraception 89 (2014) 413418
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... Subsequently, abortion portrayals have appeared in various films and television shows; however, these portrayals often do not accurately reflect the experiences of American women. It is only recently that abortion narratives have appeared outside of the drama genre (Sisson and Kimport, 2014), prompting researchers to ask: what is the narrative purpose of any abortion depiction, and how do different genres contribute to a range of purposes? (Sisson, 2017: 1) To help answer this question, I examine abortion narratives in four television shows (Jane the Virgin, Riverdale, Pretty Little Liars and The Fosters) on The CW and Freeform (both American broadcasting networks with large adolescent and young adult audiences) in order to understand how this highly controversial and divisive issue is presented for this specific viewing demographic. ...
... As of 2021, 39 states mandate sex education and/or HIV education, while only 18 states require program content to be medically accurate (Guttmacher, 2021), therefore, adolescent and young adults may learn more about abortion through television show portrayals than in their classrooms. With few requirements addressing medical accuracy in sex education in the United States, adolescents and young adults may be subject to the stigmatising silence, misinformation and reproduction of social myths that often surround abortion experiences (Ludlow, 2008;Sisson and Kimport, 2014). Due to the controversy surrounding abortion, silence surrounding this procedure is common (Cano and Foster, 2016;Cowan, 2017;Sisson andKimport, 2014, 2016;Sisson and Rowland, 2017), making abortion themes on television shows necessary to critique despite the falling rates of abortion in the U. S. (Guttmacher, 2018). ...
... As reported by Sisson and Kimport (2014), the number of depictions has grown steadily in each decade since Roe v. Wade (1973) 1 ; in the years 2015-2019, there were more than twice the number of storylines than in the preceding decade (Herold & Sisson, 2020). Although the overall quantity of television content has undoubtedly also grown over time, the outgrowth of abortion visibility is illustrated through the diversity of content in which these narratives appear, from the animated tragicomedy Bojack Horseman (Bob-Waksberg & Calo, 2016) to the satirical telenovela Jane the Virgin (Rosenthal & Sciarrotta, 2016) alongside more traditional fare for such storylines like medical dramas Call the Midwife (Thomas, 2019) and Chicago Med (Frolov & Schneider, 2019). ...
... Second, regarding character features, abortion storylines on television have historically vilified women who sought to end pregnancies, depicting them as immature and overconcerned with future opportunities while minimizing the role played by financial hardship and pregnancy mistiming (Sisson & Kimport, 2014). For instance, researchers found that although 40% of U.S. women who terminated a pregnancy reported that they did so because they could not financially support a child, only 10.5% of their onscreen counterparts offered similar reasoning. ...
In the United States, a growing number of television shows have introduced storylines involving abortion and reproductive health which have the potential to inform and educate viewers. In light of this increase in both the number and diversity of representations, there remain questions regarding their impact on audience attitudes toward this contentious issue. Using a 3 (character disposition) x 2 (consent status) experiment (N = 520), this study examines the influence of a storyline from the television show 13 Reasons Why. By manipulating both the context of the sexual encounter (a narrative feature) and the main character's affective disposition (a character feature), the study sought to better understand the role such contextual features play in shaping the audience's response, both directly as well as through their influences on identification. The findings indicate a need for caution in presenting controversial issues on screen: a worrying asymmetry emerged, where negative contextual features promoted less favorable attitudes while positive features had no observable effect. Consequently, abortion depictions could potentially contribute to anti-abortion sentiments if the focal characters are not presented sympathetically and favorably. Thus, enhancing the appeal of these representations should be of paramount importance for conscientious storytellers and practitioners.
... Abortions on screen are disproportionately surgical (Herold and Sisson 2019) even though medical abortions (the taking of the medications mifepristone and misoprostol) make up the majority of first trimester abortions in the UK and a significant minority in the USA. Sisson and Kimport (2014) studied 310 plotlines between 1916 and 2013 and found that 13.9% of these ended in the death of the pregnant woman who considered an abortion. This is an absurdly inflated prevalence when safely performed abortions statistically have a mortality rate of zero (Fathalla 2020). ...
... This raises the question of why such misrepresentation is an issue and why accuracy is important. Inaccurate tropes reinforce the assumption that abortion is violent and dangerous and the underrepresentation of particular groups could fuel stigma within these groups (Sisson and Kimport 2014;Sisson and Kimport 2016a). Given the stigmatisation of abortion, popular culture may be the primary means that many people receive information about the procedure. ...
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Abortion is a common and safe gynaecological procedure. Yet in film and television it is disproportionately represented as risky, violent, requiring hospitalisation, and affecting young, white, wealthy women. This reinforces stigma, fear and misunderstanding surrounding the procedure. While the majority of television storylines still inaccurately portray abortion, a small minority are directly showing abortion and presenting it as a positive decision. This paper analyses four such storylines in the television shows Sex Education, Shrill, GLOW and Euphoria, as well as media discourse around these plotlines, to understand how contemporary, ‘feminist’ television shows are representing abortion. The paper argues that contemporary television is increasingly representing abortion in an empathetic way that upholds women’s choice to access the procedure, but that these portrayals can be read as post-feminist. Individual choice and empowerment are prioritised in these shows at the expense of showing the complex and unequal power structures that affect how women make reproductive choices. ‘Feminist’ television still prioritises the abortion storylines of young, white women who face no obstacles to abortion access and so the realities of abortion are still not fully represented on screen.
... The portrayals of the women's final choice on abortion, abortion-related complications, and the mortality rate in films are much more frequent than in reality (Conti & Cahill, 2017). Besides, the media is concentrating on pre-Roe plotlines rather than post-Roe plotlines, as if the issue of abortion were just a problem of the past (Sisson & Kimport, 2014). Such exaggerated patterns of outcome and portrayals may lead to further social myths around abortions. ...
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We can find numerous international treaties and legal documents that support women’s choice for safe and legal abortion. However, there are constant different, incompatible and even opposing discourses around abortion globally. This paper examines a 2016 legal case (Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt) to explore how anti-abortion discourse in the U.S. has found its way into the legal text. I begin by addressing women’s right to abortion as a human rights issue and then I investigate how U.S. abortion law entangles with social and cultural reality in the country; I then offer a close reading of the Supreme Court’s judgement and discuss the implications of such a legal text. Public opinions on reproductive rights in the U.S. are closely related to the dynamics between religious culture and feminist activism, and political manipulation leads to divided opinions over the issue. A close reading of the case shows that the court’s constant emphasis on “right to privacy” sets the stage for the current fragility of the reproductive rights in the U.S. cultural and political context. First, it opens a gate for anti-abortion groups to burden women with moral responsibility; second, under TRAP laws it becomes difficult for the abortion providers to justify their stand. I further argue that the undue burden test, which was central to winning this case, is not a strong test for future lawsuits over abortion rights.
... Additionally, we conduct Google searches with the strings "abortion on television" and "abortion episode" weekly in order to capture recently aired titles. The database is restricted to scripted, English-language shows that are available to viewers in the U.S. (Gretchen Sisson and Katrina Kimport 2014). We include all types of television content (e.g, broadcast, cable, online streaming) and all genres (e.g., comedy, drama) in order to capture as many depictions of abortion as are available to American audiences. ...
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Racial identities provide important context for understanding reproductive experiences, including abortion. However, this context is often not fully reflected in popular cultural narratives about abortion, including on American television. Because onscreen depictions have the potential to influence public understandings of abortion, it is crucial to examine the messages these plotlines convey about the relationship between race, racism, and abortion access. We analyze a decade of onscreen abortion depictions, finding that the vast majority contain no racially-specific content. When plotlines do portray a character of color obtaining an abortion, these depictions can be both progressive in making race visible and regressive in relying on problematic racial tropes. These patterns differed by race: Black characters often obtain abortions while wrestling with and reinforcing racial stereotypes; Latina characters’ abortion stories are predominantly concerned with Catholic judgment. Plotlines featuring Asian or multiracial characters are largely absent. In contrast, white characters’ stories comprise the vast majority of abortions on television, and none of these plotlines substantially address issues of race. These disparate patterns obfuscate structural barriers to abortion access and may contribute to the skewed beliefs that the American public holds about abortion.
The Abortion Act 1967 may be the most contested law in UK history, sitting on a fault line between the shifting tectonic plates of a rapidly transforming society. While it has survived repeated calls for its reform, with its text barely altered for over five decades, women's experiences of accessing abortion services under it have evolved considerably. Drawing on extensive archival research and interviews, this book explores how the Abortion Act was given meaning by a diverse cast of actors including women seeking access to services, doctors and service providers, campaigners, judges, lawyers, and policy makers. By adopting an innovative biographical approach to the law, the book shows that the Abortion Act is a 'living law'. Using this historically grounded socio-legal approach, this enlightening book demonstrates how the Abortion Act both shaped and was shaped by a constantly changing society.
This paper looks at three televised examples of pregnant women grappling with prenatal testing. In these stories, prenatal testing for disability is increasingly being framed as a requirement of responsible motherhood, and termination of pregnancies with diagnoses of disability shown as the logical choice. Disability is frequently depicted to be an anxiety-inducing or disappointing outcome. Previous research has shown televised depictions of pregnancy to be influential; the narratives illustrated here reinforce the discourse that disability is a burden for potential parents and entrench the view that fetal value is defined by “health,” which is constructed in binary opposition with disability. Ultimately, these media depictions can have far-reaching effects in terms of pregnant people’s feelings about the need to use prenatal testing, their diagnoses, and their decisions regarding both testing and termination.
In this paper I analyse the written testimonies submitted by pro-choice Irish women to the government in advance of the Referendum to Repeal the Eighth Amendment in May 2018. These testimonies are all in favour of legal reform to allow abortion access. However, the women’s narratives are far from homogeneous in how they view abortion and how they present their abortion histories. Some offer a categorically pro-choice position with unapologetic calls for the liberatory potential of abortion in society to be recognized. Others, however, are far more cautious, far more conciliatory. Here, drawing on a powerful set of normative expectations around femininity, sexuality, class and family, such pro-choice women invoke a particular cultural meaning of abortion that, paradoxically perhaps, calls for the end to prohibitions on abortion while simultaneously provoking certain anti-abortion sentiments in detailing their individual abortion histories. I also suggest that adopting a defensive, almost apologetic endorsement of abortion may have significant anti-abortion side-effects in restricting future access to reproductive rights. Instead, what is called for, from a pro-choice advocacy perspective, is developing a culture of outspokenness around abortion to counter further anti-abortion inroads into women’s reproductive lives.
Little is known about young people’s experiences accessing healthcare for unintended pregnancy in the USA. To address this gap, we conducted in-depth interviews with 25 young people in California who had experienced at least one unintended pregnancy at or before 25 years of age. Participants were asked about their interactions with healthcare providers during the pregnancy, their thoughts on the determinants of their perceived quality of care, and the ways in which their healthcare experience could have been improved. Thematic analysis was used to organise information within and across interview transcripts. Two important determinants of participants' satisfaction with their healthcare experience were identified during analysis: (1) receiving comprehensive information about their pregnancy options and what to expect from each, and (2) having an empathetic, non-judgemental provider. Regarding abortion, participants described an unmet need for accurate information and frequent stigmatising experiences with dismissive and judgemental care providers. These findings highlight the importance of providing comprehensive, non-judgemental pregnancy options counselling to all pregnant people, regardless of age and desired pregnancy outcome; and reinforce the need for providers to consider ways in which their own bias may influence the quality of care they provide.
Problem/condition: Since 1969, CDC has conducted abortion surveillance to document the number and characteristics of women obtaining legal induced abortions in the United States. Period covered: 2014. Description of system: Each year, CDC requests abortion data from the central health agencies of 52 reporting areas (the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and New York City). The reporting areas provide this information voluntarily. For 2014, data were received from 49 reporting areas. For trend analysis, abortion data were evaluated from 48 areas that reported data every year during 2005-2014. Census and natality data, respectively, were used to calculate abortion rates (number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years) and ratios (number of abortions per 1,000 live births). Results: A total of 652,639 abortions were reported to CDC for 2014. Of these abortions, 98.4% were from the 48 reporting areas that provided data every year during 2005-2014. Among these 48 reporting areas, the abortion rate for 2014 was 12.1 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years, and the abortion ratio was 186 abortions per 1,000 live births. From 2013 to 2014, the total number and rate of reported abortions decreased 2%, and the ratio decreased 7%. From 2005 to 2014, the total number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased 21%, 22%, and 21%, respectively. In 2014, all three measures reached their lowest level for the entire period of analysis (2005-2014). In 2014 and throughout the period of analysis, women in their 20s accounted for the majority of abortions and had the highest abortion rates; women in their 30s and older accounted for a much smaller percentage of abortions and had lower abortion rates. In 2014, women aged 20-24 and 25-29 years accounted for 32.2% and 26.7% of all reported abortions, respectively, and had abortion rates of 21.3 and 18.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 20-24 and 25-29 years, respectively. In contrast, women aged 30-34, 35-39, and ≥40 years accounted for 17.1%, 9.7%, and 3.6% of all reported abortions, respectively, and had abortion rates of 11.9, 7.2, and 2.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 30-34 years, 35-39 years, and ≥40 years, respectively. From 2005 to 2014, the abortion rate decreased among women aged 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, and 35-39 years by 27%, 16%, 12%, and 5%, respectively, but increased 4% among women aged ≥40 years. In 2014, adolescents aged <15 and 15-19 years accounted for 0.3% and 10.4% of all reported abortions, respectively, and had abortion rates of 0.5 and 7.5 abortions per 1,000 adolescents aged <15 and 15-19 years, respectively. From 2005 to 2014, the percentage of abortions accounted for by adolescents aged 15-19 years decreased 38%, and their abortion rate decreased 49%. These decreases were greater than the decreases for women in any older age group. In contrast to the percentage distribution of abortions and abortion rates by age, abortion ratios in 2014 and throughout the entire period of analysis were highest among adolescents and lowest among women aged 30-39 years. Abortion ratios decreased from 2005 to 2014 for women in all age groups. In 2014, the majority (67.0%) of abortions were performed at ≤8 weeks' gestation, and nearly all (91.5%) were performed at ≤13 weeks' gestation. Few abortions were performed between 14 and 20 weeks' gestation (7.2%) or at ≥21 weeks' gestation (1.3%). During 2005-2014, the percentage of all abortions performed at ≤13 weeks' gestation remained consistently high (≥91.4%). Among abortions performed at ≤13 weeks' gestation, there was a shift toward earlier gestational ages, as the percentage performed at ≤6 weeks' gestation increased 21%, and the percentage of all other gestational ages at ≤13 weeks' gestation decreased 7%-20%. In 2014, among reporting areas that included medical (nonsurgical) abortion on their reporting form, 22.6% of all abortions were performed by early medical abortion (a nonsurgical abortion at ≤8 weeks' gestation), 67.4% were performed by surgical abortion at ≤13 weeks' gestation, and 8.6% were performed by surgical abortion at >13 weeks' gestation; all other methods were uncommon (<2%). Among abortions performed at ≤8 weeks' gestation that were eligible for early medical abortion on the basis of gestational age, 32.2% were completed by this method. In 2014, women with one or more previous live births accounted for 59.5% of abortions, and women with no previous live births accounted for 40.4%. Women with one or more previous induced abortions accounted for 44.9% of abortions, and women with no previous abortion accounted for 55.1%. Women with three or more previous births accounted for 13.8% of abortions, and women with three or more previous abortions accounted for 8.6% of abortions. Deaths of women associated with complications from abortion for 2014 are being assessed as part of CDC's Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System. In 2013, the most recent year for which data were available, four women were identified to have died as a result of complications from legal induced abortion. Interpretation: Among the 48 areas that reported data every year during 2005-2014, the decreases in the total number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions that occurred during 2010-2013 continued from 2013 to 2014, resulting in historic lows for all three measures of abortion. Public health action: The data in this report can help program planners and policymakers identify groups of women with the highest rates of abortion. Unintended pregnancy is the major contributor to induced abortion. Increasing access to and use of effective contraception can reduce unintended pregnancies and further reduce the number of abortions performed in the United States.
Playing Doctor is an engaging and highly perceptive history of the medical TV series from its inception to the present day. Turow offers an inside look at the creation of iconic doctor shows as well as a detailed history of the programs, an analysis of changing public perceptions of doctors and medicine, and an insightful commentary on how medical dramas have both exploited and shaped these perceptions. Originally published in 1989 and drawing on extensive interviews with creators, directors, and producers, Playing Doctor immediately became a classic in the field of communications studies. This expanded edition includes a new introduction placing the book in the contemporary context of the health care crisis, as well as new chapters covering the intervening twenty years of television programming. Turow draws on recent research and interviews with principals in contemporary television doctor shows such as ER, Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scrubs to illuminate the extraordinary ongoing cultural influence of medical shows. Playing Doctor situates the television vision of medicine as a limitless high-tech resource against the realities underlying the health care debate, both yesterday and today. Joseph Turow is Robert Lewis Shayon Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. He was named a Distinguished Scholar by the by the National Communication Association and a Fellow of the International Communication Association in 2010. He has authored eight books, edited five, and written more than 100 articles on mass media industries. He has also produced a DVD titled Prime Time Doctors: Why Should You Care? which has been distributed to all first-year medical students with the support of the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation.
A sweeping chronicle of women's battles for reproductive freedom throughout American history, Pregnancy and Power explores the many forces-social, racial, economic, and political-that have shaped women's reproductive lives in the United States. Leading historian Rickie Solinger argues that a woman's control over her body involves much more than the right to choose an abortion. Reproductive politics were at play when slaveholders devised breeding schemes, when the U.S. government took Indian children from their families in the nineteenth century, and when doctors pressed Latina women to be sterilized in the 1970s. Tracing the diverse plot lines of women's reproductive lives throughout American history, Solinger redefines the idea of reproductive freedom, putting race and class at the center of the effort to control sex and pregnancy in America over time. Solinger asks which women have how many children under what circumstances, and shows how reproductive experiences have been encouraged or coerced, rewarded or punished, honored or exploited over the last 250 years. Viewed in this way, the debate over reproductive rights raises questions about access to sex education and prenatal care, about housing laws, about access to citizenship, and about which women lose children to adoption and foster care. Pregnancy and Power shows that a complete understanding of reproductive politics must take into account the many players shaping public policy-lawmakers, educators, employers, clergy, physicians-as well as the consequences for women who obey and resist these policies. Tracing the diverse plotlines of women's reproductive lives throughout American history, Solinger redefines the idea of reproductive freedom, putting race and class at the center of the struggle to control sex and pregnancy in America.
Introduction: What Is Reproductive Politics? 1 Racializing the Nation: From the Declaration of Independence to the Emancipation Proclamation, 1776-1865 2 Sex in the City: From Secrecy to Anonymity to Privacy, 1870s to 1920s 3 No Extras: Curbing Fertility during the Great Depression 4 Central Planning: Managing Fertility, Race, and Rights in Postwar America, 1940s to 1960 5 The Human Rights Era: The Rise of Choice, the Contours of Backlash, 1960-1980 6 Revitalizing Hierarchies: How the Aftermath of Roe v. Wade Affected Fetuses, Teenage Girls, Prisoners, and Ordinary Women, 1980 to the Present Notes Acknowledgments Index About the Author
Many of the formal conventions of American television entertainment are supports of a larger hegemonic structure. After proposing the concept of ideological hegemony as a useful approach to questions of ideology and control, I indicate interrelated ways in which television messages are integrated into the dominant system of discourse and the prevailing structures of labor, consumption, and politics, in particular through these formal features of prime-time network programs: (1) format and formula (including the rigidity of program length and the narrative curve of action); (2) genre; (3) setting and character type; (4) topical slant; and (5) the solution imposed on the fictional problem. Within certain definite limits—related both to the core of dominant values and to market tolerances—these formal structures are flexible; for example, some of Norman Lear's comedies have disrupted stereotypical conventions of static character and imposed solution. The hegemonic commercial cultural system routinely incorporates some aspects of alternative ideology and rejects the unassimilable. I trace this process to the self-contradictory nature of the dominant ideology.
This article takes the recent rash of unwanted pregnancy films, such as 2007's Juno and Knocked Up, as an opportunity to revisit Margaret Atwood's influential 1985 novel, The Handmaid's Tale. It argues that the novel deals with the same themes the films evoke during a pivotal time for reproductive politics, generally, and abortion politics, specifically. It argues that the novel offers several lessons and warnings on the nature of reproductive politics that are still relevant today. These lessons are connected to how and why these films are able to `make sense' in naturalizing their heroines' choice to keep an unwanted pregnancy.