How To Get Abortion Right On Television

Chloe Angyal and Jessica Wakemen, two feminist pop culture writers of whom I’m quite fond, went on Fox to declare that the ban on abortion in prime time television is officially over, and Jessica makes a particularly valuable point: “There is not much variety in abortion plot lines on TV. Too many shows fall prey to the ‘I was considering an abortion but then, oops, I fell down the stairs and lost the baby’ plot line, which is a total cop-out. Abortion should not be something that TV writers only bring up as a vehicle to make the woman have a miscarriage.”

And I think this is exactly right. Abortion shouldn’t just be portrayed as something that’s considered and then abandoned. Abortions shouldn’t only be performed by monstrous people — as they were in a recent episode of American Horror Story, which increasingly seems to suggest that the end of a pregnancy before term, whether by miscarriage, abortion, or murder, is the ultimate expression of evil — or even necessarily morally conflicted ones. And a character having an abortion shouldn’t always have to result in an emotional trauma plotline. I’m okay with all of those storylines — except for maybe the monstrous abortionist in the basement alternating between performing Frankenstein operations on pigs and performing abortions on starlets — but only if they’re not the only thing on television.


When arcs like these are balanced with stories about women who get abortions and treat them like the routine medical procedures that they are, then we’ll be making the kind of progress we need most. Much as is the case with getting diverse actors on television, there’s more to being truly diverse than checking off quota boxes. There is diversity within the black community. People have a range of experiences with abortion. We need this sort of second-order thinking for lots of kinds of stories, not just ones about pregnancy.