Why TV Characters Get Abortions

In American films and TV made since 1916, nine percent of women who got abortions died as a direct result of the procedure…the real risk of death from abortion in the United States is statistically zero percent. (It’s worth noting than an additional six percent of abortion-obtaining characters met an untimely end in some other way, like being murdered).

…The characters’ explanations for why they need abortions also impact our cultural conversation around the importance of reproductive rights. The reasons characters cited most often were youth, immaturity, a lack of desire to parent, and not wanting to disrupt their career or educational goals. Many other real-life reasons for having an abortion are underrepresented on television, like financial unpreparedness and prioritizing the needs of existing children. “Taken together, this pattern of reasons can contribute to the construction of abortion as a self-focused decision and to the belief that abortions are ‘wanted’ because of personal desires rather than ‘needed’ because of circumstances such as poverty,” write the study’s authors.


From Sarah Mirk, “New Research Examines How Abortion Stories Are Told on TV,” Bitchmedia.org, December 1, 2015.