At ANSIRH, we are interested in how abortion operates in cultural conversations and narratives. American film and television has always included stories about abortion. Abortion Onscreen is a research program aimed at investigating these stories and analyzing their impact on broader social understandings of abortion.
We maintain a comprehensive, publicly-available Abortion Onscreen Database, tracking depictions of abortion on scripted television and film that is viewable by audiences in the United States. This database includes depictions of abortion released as far back as the early 20th century, and as recently as this past month.
To capture cultural conversations about abortion as they occur, every December we publish a report on that year’s abortion depictions, whether a character obtained, discussed, or disclosed a past abortion. Our most recent reports include:
- Abortion Onscreen in 2020
- Abortion Onscreen in 2019
- Abortion Onscreen in 2018
- Abortion Onscreen in 2017
- Abortion Onscreen in 2016
Additionally, the Abortion Onscreen program has published research closely examining the way abortion providers, patients, procedures, and barriers to access are portrayed on television. We have also analyzed the way genre and narrative purpose shape abortion stories, in the most in-depth history of abortion on TV currently published, as well as looking at how race functions in such stories.
We are also beginning to look at how abortion stories onscreen influence audiences, examining the impact of documentaries like After Tiller and television shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Little Fires Everywhere.